LOWELL — Down 0-and-2 in the count, Ryan MacDougall reminded himself to be on time, a simple message to keep himself focused during the most important at-bat of the season.
So when the lefthanded-swinging MacDougall received an inside fastball on the next offering, he timed his swing up perfectly and barreled the ball off the green scoreboard in right field.
MacDougall’s solo home run in the sixth inning was the difference as No. 2 Taunton captured the Division 1 state title for the second time since 2019 with a 2-1 win over Hockomock League rival and No. 1 seed Franklin Saturday night at LeLacheur Park.
“I was kind of expecting a curveball and just told myself to be on time,” said MacDougall, the Hockomock MVP during the regular season. “I really was just not trying to make an out. I got a fastball and got all of it. I remember it but it all happened so fast.”
MacDougall’s blast broke up an impressive pitchers’ duel between Franklin’s Jacob Jette and Taunton’s Evan Cali.
The Panthers struck first in the second inning off Cali when Ben Jarosz singled home Jace Lyons. At the time, it seemed the lone run was all Jette needed.
The lefthander headed to UMass Lowell kept Taunton off balance with a fastball-curveball combination and did not allow a hit until MacDougall singled to lead off the fourth.
But Taunton (22-3) finally broke through in the fifth when Shawn Cali lined a triple in the right-center gap and scored on an RBI groundout by Evan Cali.
An inning later, MacDougall put the Tigers in front for good.
“Shawn and I were saying in the dugout before how Ryan hasn’t hit a homer in a long time and it would be so good if he did,” Evan Cali said.
Evan Cali ended up as the hero for the Tigers on the mound, firing a complete game, allowing four hits and one run with one walk and three strikeouts.
The senior righthander battled out of jams in the first and second innings, and then hit cruise control, retiring the final 11 batters of the game. He did not allow a hit after the third inning, using funky windups to keep Franklin off balance as the Tigers took control.
“We were expecting to get a couple innings out of him and for him to come out and throw a complete game, what a great compilation for his senior year,” Taunton coach Blair Bourque said. “I’m so proud of him.”
Saturday’s state final was the rubber match between the Hockomock teams, who believed they were destined for this showdown all season. Franklin (23-4) entered the matchup on a 20-game winning streak and was seeking a second state title in four years after winning the Super 8 in 2018.
The Panthers simply ran into a dominant pitcher who caught his groove as the game went on.
“We let Cali settle in and get in rhythm and sometimes with pitchers if you don’t get them early they have a knack for building off it,” Franklin coach Zach Brown said. “It was a great high school game and I’m so proud of my team.”