The same was the case in the opening round contest with Greater New Bedford as the Black Knights squeaked by with a 1-0 win.
But Stoughton’s offense could be heating up at the right time. In a rubber match with division rival Milford, the Black Knights doubled their hit production from the previous game and put a runner in scoring position in all but one inning.
The result was a convincing 7-1 win for the Black Knights in an all-Hockomock D2 South quarterfinal game, earning a season series win over the Hawks.
“I feel like we came out a little flat, especially after having so much energy on Saturday,” said Stoughton coach Mike Armour. “But I felt like we got our mojo back a little in the second inning there. Milford manufactured a run and it was like here we go, but our guys were able to get the bat on the ball. The bats had cooled off as of late. So if we can get the bats going, I know what we’re capable of. But we’re happy to have the opportunity to play again.”
Stoughton had a total of 14 base runners: scattering eight hits, reaching twice via walk, had two players get hit by a pitch, one reached on an error, and another on a fielder’s choice.
The only inning Stoughton didn’t put a runner on base, and it might have been the defense that gave the Black Knights momentum at the plate.
After squandering a bases-loaded, one-out chance in the bottom of the second, Milford came out and loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the third. Luke Rosa drew a leadoff walk and Nick Marcolini and Justin Applebee followed with bunt singles.
Matt Shaver drove in the first run of the game with a sacrifice fly but Stoughton junior lefty James Genest (6IP, 3H, 1BB, 1ER, 4K) limited the damage by getting a foul ball pop up to first and a swinging strikeout for the third out.
Junior George Currier (3-for-4, three runs, stolen base) led off with a single and beat the throw to second to allow Robbie Seaman to reach on a fielder’s choice. Currier moved to third on a fly ball by Genest and came home to score when Mike Nazzaro’s grounder was misplayed in the infield.
“Those are hits that change games and Kap’s been doing it for us all year,” Armour said. “We’ve talked before about how many hits he’s had this season with the bases loaded but I mean a bases-clearing triple in a tournament game…that’s just big time.”
Currier got things started in the bottom of the fourth with a one-out single, stole second, and moved to third on a deep fly ball from Zak Paquette. After Seaman was hit by a pitch by Milford starter Colby Pires (4IP, 6H, 1BB, 6R, 2ER, 3K), Currier raced home on a wild pitch to make it 5-1.
Seaman moved to third on a passed ball and scored when Genest drilled a two-out single through the right side for a 6-1 advantage.
Stoughton tacked on another run in the sixth inning with Currier being the catalyst again. Currier and Paquette had back-to-back singles with the former moving up a bag on a fly ball from Genest. With runners on first and third, a balk was called and Currier scored.
“It’s a tribute to these guys,” Armour said. “We knew it was going to be a battle with Milford coming to town, it always is. We had a lot of the 2017 [Stoughton] team here, [Milford] kind of came here and did us in that year and I think that was fresh in their minds being just a couple years removed. Our guys made the plays, defensively really fantastic.”
Milford didn’t have a hit after the third inning but did have a couple of chances to cut into the deficit. Rosa reached on an error to lead off the fifth inning, moved to second on a ground out but was tagged out on a ground ball. Applebee, who reached on the fielder’s choice, stole second but was stranded there.
The Hawks got to the Knights’ bullpen in the top of the seventh, adding a bit of drama to the game in the final frame. Rosa and Applebee both walked, sandwiched around Marcolini getting hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs. But Stoughton senior Evan Jackman induced a ground ball to Currier at second. Currier finished with four putouts and four assists.
“Give a lot of credit to [Stoughton], Mike always has them ready to go and they are a good team, It’s always competitive,” said Milford coach Alex Dion. “The 2017 [Stoughton] team is here, and that was a similar story then when it was split in the regular season but we came out on top in the postseason, this year they come out on top. It’s always going to be a tough game but we didn’t take advantage of any opportunities we had and they got that big hit and I think after that, we were a bit deflated and couldn’t find a way to get it going again.”
The visitors, seeded 12th in the MIAA D2 South tournament, tried on a pair of occasions to score on aggressive base running moves, but on each occasion, Stoughton junior catcher Mike Nazzaro and senior pitcher Zak Paqeutte denied the Bears, including on the last play of the game to secure a 1-0 win in a First Round matchup on Anthony Novello Field.
The fifth-seeded Black Knights took the lead into the final inning, putting the pressure on the visitors. Paquette (7IP, 3H, 2BB, 2HBP, 5K) hit the first batter he faced before getting a fly ball to center for the first out. A passed ball allowed pinch runner Cam Barton to take second, and a ground out advanced the runner to third. Evan Mello drew the first walk of the day against Paquette to put runners on the corners.
GNBVT’s Payton Leandre battled to draw a second straight walk that would have loaded the bases. But ball four was bobbled at the plate and Barton took off for home. Nazzaro quickly recovered and scooped the ball to Paquette and Barton retreated and tried to head back to third. But the Black Knights had the runner caught in a pickle and Paquette tossed to third baseman Brady Conlin and the sophomore applied the tag to end the game.
“That game was one play away from maybe going another direction so it was nice for the boys to hold on,” said Stoughton head coach Mike Armour. “Zak was obviously huge for us today, set the tone early. He was hitting the zone, challenging those guys. We talked about really challenging them and making them earn everything, I’m not sure how many walks he ended up with but not many.
“Hats off to Greater New Bedford, their guy pitched a good game. But we need to do a better job offensively, I felt like we had guys on base early just couldn’t get them in and that could have changed the game early. We let them hang around and anything can happen, and it almost did.”
Nazzaro and Paquette combined to deny the Bears of another run with a play at home. Leandre singled in the bottom of the fifth with his side trailing 1-0 and moved to second on a sac bunt from Jack Gifford. With leadoff man Ethan Almeida at the plate, a wild pitch got back Nazzaro and went to the backstop. Leandre sprinted to third but didn’t slide in, instead rounding the base and taking off for home without hesitation.
Paquette, who was halfway between the mound and plate, noticed and quickly sprinted home and Nazzaro fielded the loose ball and hit Paquette, who applied the tag for the third out of the inning.
“Fantastic plays,” Armour said. “And even Zak looking like he wasn’t covering the plate. He was locked in from the second he got here today so I don’t think he thought he was going to go and when he did, it was like OK, thanks for coming. I think it affected them on the bases going forward too.”
The lone run of the game came in the bottom of the third inning. Paquette clubbed a one-out single and it looked like the Black Knights would have runners on first and second when Robbie Seaman was hit on the back by the pitch. But halfway down the line, the home ump ruled Seaman didn’t make an attempt to get out of the way of the pitch and the at-bat continued.
Instead of first and second, the Knights had runners on the corners as Seaman smacked a single through the right side. Junior James Genest hit a fly ball deep enough to left field to allow Paquette to scamper home for a run on a sacrifice fly.
“In my eyes, he was hit between the 2 and the 1 so I’m not sure how he’s supposed to get out of the way,” Armour said. “But we took advantage of the situation. Umps are doing the best they can, it’s not easy. We don’t want to make excuses, we’re not shrugging our shoulders, we’re not complaining…you have to overcome.
“I’m proud of the guys, gutting it out. Those tight games can go either way, tournament games can go either way. We’ve been on both sides. I think the first one is the hardest so we’re excited to move on.”
Stoughton had someone reach base in four other innings, and get into scoring position each time, but couldn’t cash in any further against GNBVT starter Angel Quinones Gonzalez. Paquette walked in the first and stole second but back-to-back strikeouts stranded the runner there.
Nazzaro was hit by a pitch to lead off the second and an error on a hard hit ground ball from Jacob Kaplan moved him to second with one out, but Stoughton could only manage a pair of fly balls and no further damage.
Cian Swierzewski put the pressure on the Bears’ defense, beating out an infield dribbler and taking second on a throwing error but three straight soft line drives stranded the run there.
And in the fifth, Seaman had a two-out single, stole second, but was caught at third trying to swipe another bag.
“I didn’t think we hit the ball the way we are capable of hitting, but that’s baseball that’s going to happen. And you’re going to have some physical mistakes, that’s part of the game. But I think we did have some mental mistakes.”
Stoughton advances to the D2 South Quarterfinals and will host a familiar foe in division rival Milford, the 13th seed. The Scarlet Hawks knocked off #4 Southeastern in their opening contest. Milford beat Stoughton, 3-2, at Fino Field at the end of April but the Black Knights clinched the division title with a 6-3 win in mid-May at Novello Field. Stoughton will host Milford on Monday at 4:00.
Trailing 5-3 to eighth-seeded North Andover, the top-seeded Panthers found themselves with a chance to potentially tie or win the game in their last at-bats. Dan Markowski led off with a double and Joe Lizotte singled. After a strikeout and a fielder’s choice put runners at the corners, Franklin had senior captain Alex Haba, the Hockomock League’s batting champion and MVP, at the plate.
On a 1-1 count, Haba swung and missed for strike two and senior Scott Elliott, who reached on the fielder’s choice, sprinted and slid into second safely for a stolen base to put the tying run on second base. But before the Elliott could dust off the dirt, the home plate ump signaled for interference at the plate and called the third out, leaving the Panthers at a loss in an opening round matchup of the MIAA Super 8 tournament.
“There’s never one pitch, one swing, one call, one play that defines a game,” said Franklin coach Zach Brown. “The Super 8 is nine innings, 27 outs, and there’s a million opportunities in that game for us to execute better and change the outcome. Yes, I would have liked to have seen that sequence play out with runners at second and third and the league MVP at the plate. I definitely would have liked to have see that play out but that’s not the reality of the situation.
“We’re going to continue to just keep grinding and I certainly feel like we have the ability to dig back in, play good baseball, get back on winning track, and make a run at it.”
While the questionable final call got the majority of the attention, Franklin’s miscues defensively hurt equally as much. The Panthers made two errors in the fifth inning and the Scarlet Knights scored three runs to take a lead that it never relinquished. The visitors tacked on an earned run in the sixth inning and took advantage of walks, steals, and a wild pitch in the seventh to score again.
Both starters had to work around trouble in the first. Franklin junior Brennan Rivera (6IP, 5R 2ER, 5H 3BB, 6K) worked around a two-out walk after striking out the first two batters of the game. North Andover’s Sebastian Keane (7.1IP, 3ER, 8H, 2BB, 1HBP), who was drafted earlier in the day by the Boston Red Sox, allowed hits to Elliott and Haba but got back-to-back outs to prevent any harm.
“Brennan has done a great job for us all year and we’re really proud of his effort today,” Brown said. “He certainly set a great tone and gave us a chance. When he’s on the hill, we’re a confident baseball team. I thought he did a great job getting us to that point in the game. If we make a play here or there for him, maybe the score is a little bit different but we need to move forward and can’t look back. We can learn from it and move forward.”
While Rivera settled into a groove — retiring 11 straight between the first and fifth innings — the Panthers’ offense got to Keane again in the third inning. Joe Lizotte singled from the nine-hole, Jack Nally walked, and Elliott reached on a bunt single up the third base line. Haba drove in the opening run but grounded into a double play and Keane got a strikeout to strand a runner at third.
“We tried to do a lot of things, like shortening the distance with everything and using Major League equivalencies to try and simulate the type of velocity,” Brown said of preparing for Keane. The Panthers had eight hits against him. “Sebastian is a special talent and he’s a great competitor. I’m really proud of our guys, that fought hard and scraped and clawed, and certainly didn’t make it easy on him.”
North Andover got its first hit of the day with one out in the fifth off the bat of Brett Dunham, a single into left. Rivera got a strikeout for the second out but an infield throwing error allowed Justin Connolly to reach and extend the inning. A walk loaded the bases and John McElroy roped a single into left field. The ball eluded the Panther fielder, allowing all three runs to come in and McElroy took third. Rivera stranded the runner there with a fly ball to right.
“We extended a couple of innings where they scored some runs but we never get upset about physical mistakes because our guys are playing hard and aggressive,” Brown said. “I’ll never be upset about a physical mistake, that’s part of the game, those will happen. As long as the mentality is aggressive and guys are playing the game the right way, I have no problems with it. A couple of balls found us in some weird spots but we’ve been pretty sound all year. But there were some times we shot ourselves in the foot.”
Keane reached with a one-out single in the top of the sixth and moved to third on a single from Trevor Crosby. Franklin got the second out with a shallow fly ball caught by Nally in center but Erik Whitehead delivered a two-out grounder up the middle to bring another run to make it 4-1.
A leadoff walk in the top of the seventh forced Brown to go to the bullpen. Tom Finn earned a walk against the bullpen and both runners advanced with stolen bases. A wild pitch allowed John McElroy to scamper home to push the lead to 5-1.
Franklin junior Will Pacheco (2IP, 0R, 0H, 0BB) entered the game in relief with runners on the corners and kept the Panthers’ chances to come back alive with a strong outing. Pacheco induced a fly ball to third, senior catcher Jake Macchi gunned a runner down at second trying to steal, and a grounder to Haba at short ended the threat.
A perfect top half from Pacheco set Franklin up for success in the bottom half. Nally was hit by a pitch to lead off and Elliott followed with a single. Macchi smacked a one-out single to right to bring both runners in to make it 5-3 and give Franklin some life, knocking Keane from the game. A two-out single from JB Floris put runners at first and second but a fly ball to left was caught for the third out.
Liam Dailey (1IP, 0R, 2H, 1BB, 2K) took over the mound for the Panthers and a pair of singles sandwiched around a walk loaded the bases with no outs for the Scarlet Hawks. But Dailey buckled down, getting back-to-back strikeouts before a fly ball to right field ended the threat.
Franklin baseball (21-2) drops in the Losers (1-Loss) Bracket of the Super 8 tournament and will play the loser of the BC High/Lowell game (Friday) on Saturday at Campanelli Stadium in Brockton with a time to be announced.
Below are the seeds for Hockomock teams in the MIAA playoffs. Times and dates are subject to change and we will update this post with any changes.
Division 1A (Super 8)
#1 Franklin (21-1) will host #8 North Andover (16-4) on Wednesday, 6/5 at 5:00.
#7 Mansfield (17-5) will travel to #2 St. John’s Prep (17-3) on Wednesday, 6/5 at 4:00
#4 Taunton (15-7) will host #13 Marshfield (10-10) on Thursday, 6/6 at 4:00.
#11 Attleboro (11-9) will travel to #6 Barnstable (12-8) on Thursday, 6/6 at 4:00 with a location to be announced.
#5 Stoughton (12-8) will host #12 Greater New Bedford (10-10) on a date and time to be announced.
#8 North Attleboro (11-9) will host #9 Milton (11-9) on Thursday, 6/6 at 4:00.
#11 Oliver Ames (10-10) will travel to #6 Duxbury (12-8) on Thursday, 6/6 at 5:00.
#13 Milford (10-10) will travel to #4 Southeastern (13-7) on Thursday, 6/6 at 4:00.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
Mansfield senior Sam Nugent has been selected as the HockomockSports.com Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, for May 26 through June 1. Nugent is the 32nd player chosen as Player of the Week for the 2018-19 school year and the ninth player in the spring season.
Nugent was a major factor in the Hornets bouncing back with a pair of wins this week and securing a return to the prestigious Super 8 tournament for the second straight season. Mansfield (17-5) beat Bishop Feehan and fellow Super 8 hopeful St. Peter Marian to earn the seventh seed and will travel to second-seeded St. John’s Prep on Wednesday afternoon.
“Sam had an incredible week during a time we needed it the most,” said Mansfield coach Joe Breen. “He’s a senior captain that’s leading by example at the most important time of year. We are looking forward to more of this in the postseason.”
Nugent had a pair of hits, including a double, drove in a run, and scored once in a win over Bishop Feehan that got the Hornets back on track after a brief, two-game losing streak. In the regular season finale on Saturday, Nugent went 3-for-3 with a walk against the Guardians, as the Hornets put the finishing touch on their Super 8 resume. Nugent scored smashed a three-run home run to help spark the Hornets’ offense. He twice, stole a base, and drove in three runs to help Mansfield leave Worcester with the victory.
The Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, is selected by the HockomockSports.com staff. Nominations can be submitted throughout the week up until Saturday night at midnight. There may be a poll posted on every Sunday with the nominations. The results of the poll influence the selection but do not strictly dictate the decision.
By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Contributor
ATTLEBORO, Mass. — Thanks to some aggressive baserunning and a fantastic pitching performance from Russell Dunlap, the North Attleboro baseball team avenged their loss earlier in the season to Attleboro with an 11-3 win at Hayward Field in Attleboro.
Despite the game being played in Attleboro, it was a home game for North as the game was previously scheduled to be played at Community Field before a time change necessitated the location be switched.
The Red Rocketeers got off to a quick start in the bottom of the first, as Jared Penta singled and stole second and then advanced to third on a Nick Raneri groundout. A wild pitch then brought Penta home to give North a 1-0 lead. Later in the inning, Todd Robinson singled and then stole second and came around to score on a throwing error by the catcher trying to nab him stealing third.
After Robinson scored, Jake Palmer singled and was brought home by Shawn Watters’ double to left to give North a 3-0 lead after an inning of play.
North’s aggressiveness on the basepaths paid dividends, as it tallied five steals in the game.
“We were just trying to put the pressure on, that’s the kind of team we are, that’s what we need to be, aggressive, and I know the kids really like to be,” North Attleboro manager Mike Hart said about his team’s strategy on the bases.
Attleboro picked up a run of its own in the top of the second, as Lorenzo Wilson singled and stole second and then advanced to third on a single by Ryan Morry. Wilson scored on a balk when North attempted to pick off Morry, who left early for second. Back-to-back strikeouts by Dunlap (CG, three hits, six strikeouts), stranded Morry at second.
“That was his first varsity start, not his first time pitching varsity this year, but his first start, he did a great job mixing it up and showed a lot of poise in his first time out there,” Hart said about his starter.
In the bottom of the second, the North bats got back to work, as Kyle Briere singled, stole second, and then came around to score on a hard-hit grounder to short by Brendan McHugh that Attleboro committed an error on. However, Eoin Kelleher (4.2 innings pitched, nine hits, four strikeouts) would strike out the next batter and strand McHugh on first.
Attleboro battled back from there, picking up a run in the top of the fourth, as Camden Fitzpatrick walked, stole second, Wilson walked, and on Fitzpatrick’s attempt to steal third, the throw hit the batter’s helmet and went out of play, which allowed Fitzpatrick score and moved Wilson to third. Wilson would then score on a double by Mason Houle, but Houle was stranded at second after Dunlap struck out the next batter to end the inning and leave North with a one-run lead.
The Rocketeers would get both runs back in the bottom of the fourth, as McHugh doubled home Nate MacKinnon from first after MacKinnon walked, and McHugh would come home on a sac fly from Penta. North Attleboro added another insurance run in the bottom of the fifth, as Robinson singled and stole second and Jake Palmer singled him home.
With a 7-3 lead in hand, North wasn’t done yet, as it tacked on four runs in the bottom of the sixth. After back-to-back singled by MacKinnon and McHugh to lead off the inning, Nick Raneri was hit by a pitch with one out and Robinson then singled home Joe Barrows (who ran for MacKinnon) and McHugh to extend the lead to 9-3.
Raneri scored on a passed ball, while Robinson scored on a throw to second to try to catch Watters stealing, who reached on a walk earlier in the inning. Kyle Bolger followed with a single, but Morry, in a relief appearance, was able to strike out the next batter to end the inning. Dunlap would get the first two batters he faced out in the top of the seventh, but Nick McMahon reached on an error but Dunlap was able to retire the next batter to give North an 11-3 win and finish the complete game.
Tuesday’s game was the final regular season game for both teams before playoff’s start.
“We got guys feeling good about themselves at the right time, and I’m interested to see what we can do,” Hart said about North Attleboro heading into the playoffs.
With the win, North finishes the regular season at 11-9. Attleboro closes out the regular season with an identical 11-9 record.