The Warriors’ great run in the postseason came to a close in the Division 2 state championship on Saturday, falling to top-seeded Milton, 4-2, at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field on the campus of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester.
“Coming in, with their bats and their pitching, I thought we were going to have to play perfect,” said King Philip head coach Jeff Plympton. “We came up a little short but I’m proud of the way the guys played. They’re a pleasure to be around all the time.
“We stuck around, which is kind of where we wanted to be. It was alright if we weren’t ahead, but as long as we were in striking distance we thought with our bats in the lineup we could make up for it, but it just didn’t happen tonight.”
Walks, errors, and aggressive base running became the difference in the game as the Warriors actually recorded more hits (five) in the game than the Wildcats (four). And Milton senior Charlie Walker, who is committed to play at Northeastern next season, was on his game with seven strikeouts and no walks.
Rudy Gately had a strong showing on the mound with four runs allowed, but none of them were earned. He scattered four hits and four walks, striking out three in 5.1 innings of work. Sophomore Tommy McLeish got the final two outs in the sixth, holding an inherited runner at third with a ground ball and a pop-up.
“I had all the confidence in the world in Rudy, he’s been a hell of a pitcher for us for the past two years and I’m excited for him to come back,” Plympton said. “And then Tommy McLeish coming in in that tough spot, and as a sophomore, that’s not easy. And he showed his composure and did a fantastic.”
An infield error (on a tough hop) allowed Milton’s leadoff man to reach in the bottom of the first, a walk pushed him to second, and a single up the middle brought the run home for an early 1-0 lead. Gately got a strikeout and an infield pop-up to strand runners at second and third.
Milton’s Ryan Kelley battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a one-out walk in the second, moved to second on a single, took third on an error, and then scored after a hard grounder got the force out at second but couldn’t be turned into a double play.
King Philip got a boost from the bottom of its lineup, starting with a one-out line drive double from the No. 9 hitting Eli Reed in the top of the third, the Warriors’ second hit of the day. Sophomore Max Robison followed with a hard-hit single to center and Reed scampered all the way home to cut the deficit in half.
Gately hit a batter with one out in the bottom half but induced a 6-4-3 double play with shortstop Shawn Legere hitting second baseman Brendan Weddleton, who fired over to first where Robison made a great scoop to hold on to end the inning.
Legere was hit by a pitch to put the leadoff runner on in the top of the fourth for the Warriors, but Walker got back-to-back strikeouts against the heart of the order, and then an infield pop-up for the third out.
“He threw a lot of curveballs and has a heck of a fastball, sitting around 90 [miles per hour],” Plympton said of Walker. “That’s probably the best curveball our guys have seen this year, it’s next level and he’s going to Northeastern so that’s what you’re going to see in Division 1 baseball, and I thought we gave him a pretty good bid.”
Meanwhile, the Wildcats proved to be dangerous with two outs. An infield error put Marcus Ollivierre on, who promptly stole second, and a second error allowed Jimmy Fallon to reach and Ollivierre to take third. A wild pitch bounced past the catcher and just like that, the Wildcats had another run without a hit.
Sean Sullivan had a one-out single in the top of the fifth and moved into scoring position after an errant pick-off attempt from the catcher, but the Warriors couldn’t push him any further as Walker got a ground out and then a pick-off.
Gately erased a leadoff walk with a pickoff and then worked around a single and a walk to keep the deficit at 3-1 through five innings, but Walker was in a groove on the mound and quickly retired the side in the top of the sixth. Milton added a key run in the bottom of the sixth with a one-out single from Fallon to score Kelley, who reached on an error to start the inning.
That ended Gately’s outing and McLeish took over with a runner on third. After falling behind 3-0 in the count, McLeish induced a ground to shortstop where Legere looked the runner back before firing to first for the second out. Four pitches later, McLeish got Walker to pop up to right for the third out.
King Philip battled to the end as junior Brendan Sencaj smacked a hard-hit grounder up the first base line, and it took a friendly bounce off the wall in right as Sencaj hustled his way to a triple. A ground out to the right side from Gately brought Sencaj in, cutting the deficit to 4-2 with two outs.
But that was all the damage the Warriors would do as Walker got a strikeout and a liner to second for the final out.
“The program wasn’t in a great spot a few years back and this group of seniors has led the charge with the turnaround,” Plympton said. “We had a pretty decent season last year too. They played a little bit of an underdog role all season and I couldn’t be happier where we are as a program now and the future looks bright for next year.
“They are a resilient group and they’re able to let things go. We had a bad loss to Franklin but they were back in practice the next day ready to move on like nothing happened, which is huge. Baseball is mental…so if you’re dwelling on things, it won’t be good so I definitely learned what a resilient bunch they were.”
King Philip baseball finishes the season at 16-9.
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