On Friday morning, the Black Knights baseball team were among the hundreds of students that attended the funeral of classmate David Bell, one of four Stoughton High students, along with Nick Joyce, Eryck Sarblah, and Christopher Desir, who tragically passed away in an accident this past Saturday.
On Friday afternoon, the Black Knights took the field for the third time this season and came away with a 14-5 win over rival Canton, their second win over the Bulldogs this week.
“There wasn’t a doubt in my mind they’d want to play today, I’m just so proud of these young men,” said Stoughton head coach Mike Armour. Many of the players on the team were teammates with Bell for football or basketball.
“Going back to Monday, tip of the cap to Canton. They had ribbons and everything when we got there, and then over to Attleboro, it was their senior day but their parents were all wearing orange ribbons and they had stuff hanging up for us. The support we’ve felt from the rest of the league has been amazing. Just to see everyone come out and pick us up has been great. You’re OK one minute and then it kind of hits you, the kids and coaches included. These kids lost four friends. We were at one funeral today. It was a long day, it was a long week, but unsurprisingly these kids dug down and I was proud of them.”
Stoughton’s offense had its best game of the season, scoring a season-high 14 runs on 16 hits. The Black Knights scored in every inning except the third, scoring at least three runs in the second, fifth, and sixth innings.
Senior Ruben Gonzalez, who was teammates with Bell in both football and basketball, earned the win on the mound with two strikeouts in five innings of work. He walked four and allowed just three hits and three runs.
Matt Hadley got Stoughton’s offense going in the bottom of the first with a one-out single. A pickoff error allowed Hadley to get to third and he scored on a groundout from sophomore James Genest for a 1-0 lead after one.
The Black Knights had their best inning in the bottom of the second. Will Eckhart (walk), Cian Swierzewski (single) and Zak Paquette (error) all reached to load the bases with one out. Gonzalez and Hadley reached on back-to-back infield singles, each driving a run in to make it 3-0.
Evan Gibb drove in a run on a fielder’s choice to make it 4-0 and then a single from James Genest turned into two runs. Genest’s line drive to center was misplayed, allowing both Hadley and Gibb to score but Genest was thrown out at home on a nice relay throw from shortstop Nate Quan.
Canton stuck back for two runs in the top of the third. Niko Donovan singled and then scored on a two-out inside the park home run from Matt Pigeon to cut Stoughton lead to 6-2.
Stoughton loaded the bases in the fourth inning but Canton reliever Ryan Hickey limited the damage to one run. Gonzalez (double), Hadley (single), and Gibb (walk) were on base with one out. Gonzalez scored on a sacrifice fly from Genest to make it 7-2 but Hickey got the final out to escape further damage.
Quan helped Canton cut into Stoughton’s lead with a run in the top of the fifth. Quan had a leadoff walk, took second on a walk to Tommy DiLello and scored on an RBI single up the middle from Hickey to make it 7-3.
But Stoughton was quick to respond, scoring three runs in the bottom half. Swierzewski (fielder’s choice) and Paquette (single) were on first and second with two outs before Gonzalez ripped a shot to right-center field. Gonzalez used his speed to round the bases for a three-run inside the park home run, his third, fourth, and fifth RBI of the day.
“Ruben didn’t have any RBIs coming into this week,” Armour said. “He got his first one on Monday, got another against Attleboro and then the big day today. He’s been due, he’s a heck of a ballplayer.”
Mike Konzal led off with a triple for Canton in the top of the sixth and scored on an RBI groundout from sophomore Owen Lehane. An error allowed Rob Sullivan to reach, and a throwing error brought him to third and Lucas Bryant to second. Matt Casamento drove Sullivan in with an RBI single up the middle to make it 10-5.
But the Black Knights put the game out of reach with four runs in the bottom of the sixth, all with two outs. George Currier got things going with a single and scored after a triple from Robbie Seaman. Eckhart followed up with an RBI triple of his own and scored on a single from Ryan Semler to make it 14-5.
With the win, Stoughton qualifies for the postseason by securing a 0.500 record or better. The Black Knights were already headed to the playoffs because of a second place finish in the Davenport division.
While the offense has been a constant throughout the season, Armour is excited about the progress of the pitching.
“More important our pitching is coming along,” Armour said. “Ruben’s developed into a starter for us, Evan [Gibb] has been throwing, Will [Echkart] is getting back in the mix, and Zak [Paquette] is eating a ton of innings for us. We feel we have four guys that can man the mound and that puts us in a good position for the postseason. We’re looking forward to competing.”
Stoughton baseball (9-6 Hockomock, 9-8 overall) will finish the regular season with a visit from Sharon on Wednesday. Canton finishes the season 4-15 in the Hock and 5-15 overall.