Black Knights Bow Out With Loss To Raiders

Stoughton baseball
Stoughton’s Ruben Gonzalez appeared to slide in safely at home in the first inning but was ruled to be tagged out. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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STOUGHTON, Mass. – If not for the perfect relay throw, Stoughton very well could have been looking at a different outcome against #9 Somerset-Berkley.

Trailing by a run in the bottom of the seventh, senior Ruben Gonzalez, one of the fastest players in the area, hit an RBI triple that rolled to the edge of right field at Noviello Field at Stoughton High School.

Gonzalez sped around third and nearly made the turn home but the perfect relay throw forced Stoughton head coach Mike Armour to hold Gonzalez at third with two outs. At the next at-bat. SB pitcher Chase Stafford induced a chopper down the third base line and the throw to first was just in time for the final out, giving the Raiders a 3-2 win over the Black Knights.

Stoughton entered the bottom half of the inning facing a two-run deficit, down 3-1 after the Raiders scored twice in the second and once in the fourth. Stafford got the first two outs – a 6-3 groundout and an F8 – before Stoughton senior Zak Paquette battled his way to a walk.

Gonzalez smacked the first pitch he saw into right, the ball rolling all the way to the edge of the playing field to bring pinch runner Cameron DiRosa home to make it a one-run game.

“Ruben…I expect nothing less, coming through there,” Armour said. “If they don’t the cut there, then he’s still going and tying it up. He is such a special player, I think he showed what he’s about today. But we just came up a little short.”

Gonzalez nearly stole home, but on a 2-2 count, Matt Hadley was forced to put the ball in play and the senior came inches away from legging out the infield single to tie the game.

“We couldn’t string enough hits today on offense,” Armour said. “You have to tip your cap to Somerset-Berkley. Their pitcher was hitting his spots but we weren’t really squaring them up that well today. They had that one big inning, they got some bloop hits. But that’s baseball…..if you only score two runs, chances are you’re not going to win that game.”

It was a bright start for the Black Knights. Gonzalez led off with a single in the bottom of the first and went to third on a single from Evan Gibb. With sophomore James Genest at the plate, the ball got behind the catcher and Gonzalez took off for home, but the umpire called the speedy shortstop out at home.

Gibb moved to third on the same ball and Genest singled into left field to give Stoughton a 1-0 lead.

Somerset-Berkley loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the second inning. Kyle Vieira singled into center for a run before Paquette got the first out with an infield fly. Jacob Rebello hit one deep enough to center allowing the run to just beat Cian Swierzewski’s throw for a sacrifice fly and a 2-1 advantage.

The Raiders tacked on a run in the fourth inning. Vieira and Rebello had singles and Matt Shea reached on a bunt and overthrow. That same overthrow allowed Vieira to come around and make it 3-1.

After an intentional walk, Paquette got a pop up to right field and sophomore George Currier fired to first for a double play. Paquette followed up with a strikeout.

“Zak has been heart, guts, everything for us all year,” Armour said. “He plans to go seven [innings] every time he’s out there. He makes it very difficult to not have that come to fruition. He was falling behind a couple of times but he kept coming back and getting the outs in the later innings so you tip your cap to him.”

Stoughton had a chance to strike back in the bottom of the fourth but uncharacteristic errors hurt the Black Knights. Genest singled and Currier followed with a one-out base hit of his own to put runners on first and second.

But a ground ball not only got the force out at second, Stoughton’s pinch runner accidentally overran third and the Raiders capitalized, firing to third and getting the tag.

Swierzewski was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the fifth but a sac bunt attempt turned into a double play when Stafford caught the bunt and fired to first.

“We had a couple base running errors, we had that sac bunt turn into the double play so it was just little things. And at the same time, George made that nice play in right and doubled them up. It was a good game…[Somerset] got their three runs early and we just couldn’t get enough to overcome.”

Stoughton baseball, which had just two players back from the 2017 squad with varsity experience, finishes the season at 10-9 overall. Six of the nine Black Knight starters are set to return next season.

“I’m proud of these guys,” Armour said. “Two of them played varsity baseball last year…so to qualify, get a game at our home field. The town has been going through a lot, I think that’s what I’m most upset about because we really wanted to give Stoughton something to smile about, something to get behind. But we just came up a little short and I think that hurts more than anything else.”

Stoughton Picks Up Emotional Win Over Canton

Stoughton baseball
Stoughton’s Matt Hadley (1) greets Ruben Gonzalez (right) after his inside the park home run. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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STOUGHTON, Mass. – It has been a long week for students at Stoughton High School.

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.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Macek, Milford Outlast Stoughton In Extra Innings

Milford baseball
Milford’s Aidan Wilde (1) and Alex Macek celebrate after recording the final out. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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STOUGHTON, Mass. – The last time Milford senior Alex Macek toed the rubber on Anthony Noviello Field on the campus of Stoughton High School, things didn’t exactly go as planned as the Black Knights exploded for 15 runs.

This time around, things couldn’t have gone much better.

Macek pitched 8.2 innings, allowing just two innings in the first inning, and struck out seven, leading the Scarlet Hawks to a 3-2 win over Stoughton in nine innings.

With the game tied 2-2 in the top of the ninth, Macek hit a grounder to the left side of the infield and the throw to first was short, allowing sophomore Alex Coady to cross for the go-ahead run.

Stoughton’s Ryan Sullivan drew a two-out walk and Jack Connelly singled to put runners on the corners with two outs. Milford’s Aidan Wilde relieved Macek on the mound and got the final out, a grounder to third.

“We made plays, we had very good pitching so it gave us an opportunity,” said Milford head coach Paul Pellegrini. “We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities early but we stuck with it and that showed there. That was a complete team effort. I know Macek didn’t want me to take him out there, but his pitch count was up there.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Stoughton had a bright start as Ruben Gonzalez reached on an error to lead off and Sullivan sliced a an RBI triple down the right field line after a lengthy at-bat. Connelly took first after being hit but Macek induced a double play, allowing just the one run to score and recorded the third out to escape with just a 2-0 deficit.

Macek then tossed seven and two thirds scoreless, working around a one-out double in the second, a bases loaded situation one one out in the third inning, runners first and second with no outs in the fifth inning, runners on second and third with one out in the sixth and a lead off single in the seventh.

“He just kept them off balance,” Pellegrini said of Macek. “He threw a lot of strikes, he didn’t have too many walks. I know he hit the two guys but we ended up getting out of that inning. He really battled, it didn’t look like his velocity was all there but he was effective with his off speed stuff.”

“I had pitched well against them last year before the 15-0 game earlier this year, so I was confident and I knew it wouldn’t happen again, I wouldn’t let it happen,” Macek said. “The first pitch curve was working well for me and I was getting inside and jamming them.

“We’ve all been playing together since we were nine so we’re all in this together. We didn’t want today to be the last game. I just wanted to put the ball in play and see what happens.”

“No excuses from us, we don’t make excuses,” said Stoughton head coach Mike Armour. “We have to score more than two runs. We have to hit the ball more…there were a lot of runners stranded, for both teams. It seemed like we had guys on base every inning, as did they, and no one was getting it done. We had our chances, we just couldn’t get another run across the fish. Regardless of how it happened, they scored one more run than we did.”

Milford cut into the lead in the third inning, loading the bases for the first of three times in the contest. Tony Mobilia was hit by a pitch and Ryan Goncalves followed with a one-out single. Anthony Arcudi laced a single to load the bases and Wilde drew a walk to cut the deficit in half.

Stoughton starter Justin Hutchinson (6IP, 1R, 6H, 7K) bounced back and recorded two straight strikeouts to avoid any further damage.

“I miss him already,” Armour said of Hutchinson, who led the Hockomock in wins and was second in strikeouts. “To think that we’re done, it’s tough. He was very dedicated to the program and he just loves the game of baseball. I have full confidence he will excel at the next level. There won’t be another Hutch.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Milford would send three more batters up to the plate with the bases loaded. The Hawks filled the bags with one out in the fourth but Connelly made a nice grab over the dugout fence in foul territory and Hutchinson got another strikeout. Milford loaded them once again with two outs in the sixth, but Stoughton’s Pat Hagerty made a charging catch in center for the third out.

It looked as though the Black Knights pushed across their third run of the game when sophomore Evan Gibb dove head first into first and appeared to beat the throw, allowing Sullivan to score, but the infield ump called the play out at first.

Wilde started the Hawks off on the right foot in the seventh inning, reaching first after being hit and taking second on a wild pitch. Coady then delivered a line drive base hit to bring Wilde around for the tying run with one out.

“He’s really our vocal leader believe it or not as a sophomore,” Pellegrini said of Coady. “He’s a good kid, he just gets it. His on-base percentage was around .550 this year and he batted around .400…he sees the ball very well. He’d been struggling a little bit at the plate so it was nice him come through at that point.”

Milford baseball (12-9) advances to the D2 South Quarterfinals and will play at fifth-seeded Greater New Bedford (15-6) on Monday at 4:00. Stoughton finishes the season 15-6.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Stoughton Completes Late Comeback In Extra Innings

Stoughton baseball
Stoughton players celebrate as Jack Connelly (right) approaches home plate after hitting a solo home run. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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WRENTHAM, Mass. – With ten seniors on the roster, there aren’t many situations that Stoughton baseball hasn’t experienced over the past few seasons.

That helps explain why there was no panic among the Black Knights heading into their last three outs, trailing KP 1-0.

Stoughton plated the tying run in the top of the seventh and scored the winning-run in the top of the eighth to escape with a 2-1 win over the Warriors at newly dedicated Gary Lombard field on the campus of King Philip Regional High School.

Both Stoughton senior Justin Hutchinson (compete game, six hits, two strikeouts) and King Philip senior Stephen Murray (7.2 innings, six hits, six strikeouts) dominated throughout the contest, turning a matchup between two strong offenses into a pitcher’s duel.

With the Warriors holding a 1-0 lead through six innings, Stoughton senior Luke Johnson reached on an infield error to lead off the seventh. Nick Hardy came through with a sacrifice bunt to move Johnson to second and Pat Hagerty drilled a single down the right field line to bring Johnson home to tie the game.

Hagerty stole second to move into scoring position but Murray picked up a strikeout and induced a fly ball to escape.

Murray singled to lead off the bottom of the seventh but a pinch runner was caught in a run down between first and second after Stoughton catcher Evan Gibb quickly fired to first after a missed bunt attempt. Hutchinson sandwiched a pair of fly balls around a walk to send the game into extra innings.

After a pair of groundouts for the Black Knights, senior Jack Connelly stepped to the plate. The first baseman launched a 1-2 pitch over the fence in right field — estimated at 400 feet by the grounds crew — to put Stoughton ahead 2-1.

“They don’t get any bigger than that,” said Stoughton head coach Mike Armour. “And Pat Hagerty coming through with the single to tie the game in the top of the seventh. He’s been a little snakebitten this year, hitting the ball on the screws a lot. So it’s nice to see him come through. If he doesn’t get that hit, Jack doesn’t have the opportunity to get his hit.”

Hutchinson needed just six pitches to get three straight ground balls in the bottom of the eighth to earn the win.

“Both kids were pitching really well,” Armour. said “Their guy [Murray] kept us in check, hit his spots and established the zone early. And then Hutch does what he always does. It was a good old fashioned pitcher’s duel. KP got their run across the plate…it was one of the craziest runs I’ve seen scored. I was just hoping that wasn’t the difference in the game.”

“We’ve had our tight games before today. These guys are just ball players. I think the experience they have, having a decent little run last year and the senior leadership, there’s 10 of them…they want to get it done every day they step out there.”

Both Stoughton and KP threatened in the third inning but both were denied at home on throws from the left side of the infield. In the top half, Matt Gallagher singled and Ruben Gonzalez had a bunt single to put move Gallagher all the way to third. Gonzalez stole second to put runners in scoring position with one out.

Murray then got a ground ball to shortstop Will Weir, who fired home to Nolan Bradley for the tag. Murray then induced a ground ball to escape without any damage.

In the bottom of the third, Jeremy Rhines led off with a second and moved to second on a sac bunt from Bradley. Rhines took third on a single from Chris Wing but was tagged out at home when a grounder went to Johnson at third and he fired home to Gibb for the tag.

KP broke the scoreless tie an inning later, needing just one hit to bring in a run. Murray connected on a two-out single, moved to second on a passed ball and stole third without a throw. With Murray taking a big lead at third, Stoughton catcher Evan Gibb elected to fire down the third base line to try and pick him off after a pitch from Hutchinson.

However, Gibb’s throw hit Murray in the helmet as he retreated back to third. The ball bounced into foul territory, temporarily freezing the defense. Murray took off for home and beat the throw to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead.

“That was a great baseball game,” said KP head coach Pat Weir. “There were a couple of mental errors, a couple of mental mistakes. Stoughton is a great hitting team. Stephen pitched his heart out, he deserved a better outcome than we gave him. But Stoughton is going to battle every time you play them. They’re well coached and they hit the ball very well, they’re a darn good baseball team.’

Hutchinson allowed just one hit between the fifth and sixth innings, and the runner was erased immediately. Bradley hit a fly ball down the right field line that just eluded the dive of Stoughton right fielder Ryan Sullivan. But Sullivan was quick to his feet and got the out as Bradley tried to leg out a double.

Murray also allowed just one hit between the fifth and sixth innings, a two-out single from Connelly but quickly got a ground ball to get out of the inning.

Stoughton baseball (7-2 overall, 6-2 league) is back in action on Monday night on the road at Franklin with first pitch scheduled for 7:00. King Philip (5-4, 4-4) will try to snap its current skid when it hosts Sharon on Monday at 3:45.

Resilient Black Knights Battle To Beat Nauset

Stoughton players rush to celebrate with Pat Hagerty (far right) after driving the winning run in. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
Stoughton players rush to celebrate with Pat Hagerty (far right) after driving the winning run in. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

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STOUGHTON, Mass. – Sometimes things don’t always go according to plan. Yet, sometimes things work out just fine anyways.

Stoughton loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning in a tied game and looked to squeeze the winning run across. Junior Pat Hagerty laid down a near perfect bunt down the first base line but the ball just trickled foul. At the next at bat, Hagerty didn’t get a second chance at the bunt, instead getting drilled in the leg with a fastball.

But that was just fine for the Black Knights, as Hagerty took first and forced junior Luke Johnson in from home for the winning run, giving Stoughton a 3-2 win over Nauset and a spot in the D2 South Semifinal.

“I asked him if he knew the sign for the squeeze,” Stoughton head coach Mike Armour said with a chuckle when asked what the message was to Hagerty going into his final at bat. “That squeeze would have been nice. We made it clear and I had full faith that he could get the bunt down. With the lefty on the mound, we felt like it was a pretty high percentage play. We almost got it done but to see him get that run across the plate, anyway he could, was great. We beat a very good baseball team today and I’m so proud of these guys, they gutted it out. It was an absolute war like we expected, just couldn’t be more proud of the guys.”

Stoughton trailed twice in the game, a 1-0 run after just a half inning and a 2-1 deficit just a half inning after the Black Knights had tied it. Stoughton tied the game in the bottom of the sixth, eventually sending the game to extra innings.

Johnson got things started in the bottom of the ninth, roping a lead off double down the left field line. Nick Hardy attempted a sacrifice bunt and Nauset pitcher Paul Prue charged in and tried to look Hagerty back at second. Instead, he was unable to field the ball cleanly and Hardy reached safely. Prue induced a fly out to second but junior Justin Hutchinson worked himself to a walk with a full count, loading the bases.

That’s when Hagerty was hit on the leg on the second pitch to send the Black Knights into the semifinal round.

Nauset took the lead in the first inning when Prue led off the game with a double and moved to third on a ground out to second. Nauset’s Mac Labarge hit a dribbler back up the middle and Stoughton pitcher Ryan Sullivan charged and flipped to catcher Jake Gibb. Gibb appeared to make the tag in time, with the home plate ump calling Prue out. However, an appeal from Nauset and a discussion between the umps resulted in a reverse decision and a 1-0 lead.

It looked like Stoughton would not only tie the game but possibly take the lead in the third inning when Ruben Gonzalez (single), Hutchinson (error) and Hagerty (walk) all reached consecutively to load the bases with no outs. Nauset starting pitcher Mike Doherty induced a shallow pop up to right to get the first out but Gibb skied one to left field, deep enough for a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Doherty got the third out via a grounder to get out of the inning with just one run allowed.

The Warriors responded immediately with Doherty launching a two-out double and Kino Gray following it up with an RBI triple into right center field. Sullivan got out of the inning with a ground ball to first.

Gibb got Stoughton’s tying run rally in the sixth started with a one-out single through the left field of the infield. Nauset decided to bring Prue in to replace Doherty. Prue pitched a complete game two-hit shutout this past Thursday against Oliver Ames. That didn’t bother the Black Knights though.

“We were aware of who he was and at that point in the game, it was just bring it on,” Armour said.

Jack Connelly grounded into a fielder’s choice to move pinch runner Matt Gallagher to second. Ryan Sullivan then reached on a grounder to third as Gallagher was able to elude the tag in the base path and Sullivan was ahead of the throw. Johnson then muscled a hit over the head of the third baseman to bring in the tying run.

“They answered us quick and went back up one,” Armour said. “For Luke to come through and just muscle it over the third baseman’s head was huge. Then following it up, spraying it down the left field line to start the ninth to get into scoring position…it was just a hell of a day. Across the board, it’s been a team effort. Across the board, this has been such a tight group.”

The tying run seemed to inspire Sullivan on the mound. He came back out in the top of the seventh inning and struck out the side, needing just 13 pitches. Sullivan came back out in the top of the eighth, getting the Warriors in order, punctuating his performance with his seventh strikeout.

In the top of the ninth, Nauset attempted to regain the lead against Stoughton reliever Nico Parmegianni. Doherty led off with a single but Parmegianni induced a pop up for the first out. Parmegianni got another fly ball, this one to right field, where Sullivan relocated after coming off the mound. Sullivan charged in, catching the ball and firing a rocket — after throwing eight innings — right on the mark at first for the double play.

“Sully, just digging down with eight innings and then capping it with that absolute solid play on that pop up,” Armour said. “It’s been a while since he’s pitches so he was well rested. I think he had the curveball working for him today, his cutter was kicking in as well and he was just throwing, he had good stuff.”

Stoughton baseball advances to the D2 South Semifinal for the first time since 2013. The Black Knights will take on top seeded Dighton-Rehoboth on Wednesday at Rockland High School. First pitch is set for 4:00.

Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.

Connelly, Hutchinson Guide Stoughton Past Hopkinton

By Lance Reynolds, HockomockSports.com Contributor

STOUGHTON, Mass. – They did it all regular season, and on Saturday afternoon, they did it again, this time in the postseason.

Justin Hutchinson orchestrated a masterpiece on the mound while Jack Connelly backed his pitcher up with the biggest hit of the season to guide Stoughton past Hopkinton with a 2-1 victory.

Hutchinson delivered a complete game performance striking out 11 while allowing just six hits and three walks. The right-hander recorded at least two strike outs in the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth innings with only three Hiller baserunners reaching third.

“Hutch has been doing it for us all year. He gutted it out – his curveball was working today, he mixed it up,” Stoughton head coach Mike Armour said. “Hopkinton played a hell of a game, their kid threw a hell of a game – it was an absolute war out there.”

The Black Knights saw themselves down one entering the bottom of the sixth, but they were determined to get the run support that Hutchinson had so rightfully earned. After Hopkinton retired the leadoff hitter, shortstop Doug Seamen started things with an infield single to the shortstop hole.

The Hillers looked like they were on the way to picking up the second out on a Jake Gibb grounder that got under a diving Chris Burdick at third and into the glove of shortstop Jack Vaccari. However, Hopkinton’s first baseman couldn’t secure the throw allowing Gibb to reach and Seamen to land at third with one out.

Matt Gallagher came in as a pinch runner for Gibb before Connelly stepped up to the plate. Like the junior first baseman has done all season, Connelly belted the most important hit of the contest to ultimately decide the Black Knights’ fate. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Connelly ripped a shot into deep center driving in Seamen and Gallagher for the game-winning two runs.

“I was looking for something middle in – something in my wheelhouse – like I’ve been doing all year, and grateful that I got my bat on the ball,” Connelly said. “Hats off to that pitcher – he hits his spots well, had a lot of gas behind his fastball. I think we overcame that and it shows the motivation that we have as a team and how we pick each other up.”

“Jack Connelly coming through and has been doing it all year for us – coming through and driving in the tying or go-ahead runs in the bottom of the sixth, that’s what you play for,” Armour said. “He’s a great kid, so I couldn’t be any happier.”

With Stoughton ahead 2-1 and the top of Hopkinton’s lineup due up, Armour elected to stick with Hutchinson for the seventh. The gamble was well-worth it as the starter induced two grounders and struck out his eleventh batter for the last out in the opening round of the tourney.

“He’s been our guy. It was his opportunity to shut it down. He threw a lot of pitches, but I think Hutch has earned the right this season,” Armour said. “He’s been our guy so he earned the right to close.”

After placing runners on base in each of the first five innings without producing a run, the Hillers knocked in the game’s opening run in the sixth. Burdick reached base on a walk, got to second on a sacrifice bunt, and came across the plate as Tom Onsi helped his own cause with a single to center.
Besides that blemish, Hutchinson continued his season-long success on the mound.

“He’s been pitching his ass off all year long,” Connelly said of his teammate. “You couldn’t really expect anything else from him. He’s been lights out all year. I’m glad to have him as a teammate, and I hope this train keeps rolling.”

Opposing Hutchinson, Onsi was equally as dominant. The Hiller starter was unhittable in the first three innings besides mistakes coming on an issued hit batter and base on balls. Connelly spoiled his no-hit effort in the bottom of the fourth with a single to right.

“He pitched a great game. He had us off balance and kept us in check,” Armour said of facing Onsi.
Failing to reach the tournament in 2015, fourth-seeded Stoughton (16-6) is not thinking of the past and has its eyes on the future. The next step in the future comes on Tuesday when the Black Knights host fifth-seeded Nauset in a quarterfinal matchup.

“Our goal is to have success in the tournament – this is the first step,” Armour said. “We have some work to do and have some things to tighten up if we’re going to get another ‘W’ on Tuesday.”

Black Knights Earn Bragging Rights Against King Philip

Stoughton baseball
Stoughton senior catcher Jake Gibb was all smiles after chasing down a runner between second and third in the first inning. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
STOUGHTON, Mass. – Ever since the Hockomock League split into two divisions, they have crowned a minimum of two division champs in each sport, leaving no true ‘Hockomock champion.’

Because of how the schedules are set, cross-division games aren’t typically at the end of the season and therefore division champs rarely get the chance to face off bragging rights. But due to some postponements, Stoughton and King Philip’s game was pushed to the last weekend of the season, pitting the Davenport division champ against the Kelley-Rex division champ.

With that, there was plenty of bragging rights on the line as the Black Knights hosted the Warriors in a Saturday matinee. And on top of that, Stoughton was looking to snap a two game skid before entering the tournament.

But even with all of that to play for, Stoughton was simply playing for one another, for the team.

“It’s been an emotional day,” Stoughton head coach Mike Armour said. “We actually went to a wake this morning, as a team, for one of our guys who lost his dad. It’s been a long day but this is a tight knit group, this is a family really.

“Just being there for everyone, we said to ourselves, we have a lot of family here, we wanted to pick them up, we wanted to give them something to smile and cheer about and we did. It was awesome to see the guys having fun.”

In the end, the Black Knights walked away with smiles on their faces and the bragging rights with a 8-3 win over KP.

It didn’t take long for the fun to start for Stoughton. Senior Chris McNulty led off the bottom of the second inning with a single and moved to second on an errant pick off attempt. KP starter Jack DiCenso got back to back strikeouts but Stoughton junior Pat Hagerty connected for an RBI double off a 1-1 count to give the Black Knights a 1-0 lead.

The Black Knights continue to roll into the third inning with starter Barry Cooke needing just six pitches to get through four batters in the top of the third and the Black Knights’ offense added two more runs in the bottom half. Doug Seaman drew a one-out walk and stole second base.

Senior Jake Gibb drilled a single into left center and a bobble in the outfield allowed Seaman to round third and come in safely and Gibb to reach second. Jack Connelly followed with a double to bring Gibb home to make it 3-0.

“We lost a couple of hard fought games this past week and if we had gotten a big base hit, we win both of those games,” Armour said after 2-1 losses to Whitman-Hanson and Milford over the past week. “We talked about getting the two-out RBIs, the big hits. Pat Hagerty came through in the second…to come out and get the first run across the plate, that’s usually what we need. We can build off of that. Connelly and Gibb did what they do in the third and we just went from there. It was a total team effort.”

After Cooke got through a two-out single from Ryan Coulter, his second of the day, in the top of the fourth, Stoughton’s offense was back at it in the bottom half. A lead off single from Hagerty caused a pitching change as KP head coach brought in Jake Cavanagh to replace DiCenso. Nick Quattrucci’s sacrifice bunt moved Hagerty up and a bloop single from Ruben Gonzalez put runners on the corners.

A wild pitch brought Hagerty in from third and Gonzalez, who stole second, moved to third. Gibb walked and then the Black Knights executed a double steal with Gibb sprinting to second, drawing a throw, allowing Gonzalez to race home to make it 5-0.

“We preach it and we know it’s key,” Armour said of being active on the bases. “We know King Philip, they are active on the bases too. We talked about that leading up to this, about the base running and being aware of what they like to do. It was nice to see our guys execute running the bases too. It hasn’t been stellar for us this season but now we’re just getting everything in order.”

King Philip was able to breakthrough against Cooke in the top of the fifth but only pulled one run back. Sophomore Patrick Limerick drew a one-out walk, stole second and then came around to score after a pair of walks. Cooke was able to get the third out with a runner on third to limit the damage.

“I thought Barry Cooke pitched his butt off today,” Armour said. “He gave it everything he had right until the end of the fifth inning. And [Justin] Hutchinson, he’s been great for us all year and came in to help us. Tip your hat to King Philip, they fought right to the end.”

Justin Hutchinson retired KP in order in the top of the six and the Black Knights added key insurance runs in the bottom half.

A leadoff triple by Ryan Sullivan turned into a run when Gonzalez reached on an infield error. Seaman singled through the left side and the ball eluded KP’s left fielder, allowing Gonzalez to scamper home from second and Seaman to race to third. He scored Stoughton’s third run of the inning on a passed ball to make it 8-1.

King Philip rallied as Will Weir and DiCenso each had a two-out RBI in the top of the seventh with Ryan Guenette and Jon Rolfe, who both walked, scoring runs. But Hutchinson was able to close the door, ending the Warriors’ rally.

“We didn’t want to enter the tournament on a three game losing streak so we’re happy to get it done here,” Armour said. “Now we’re looking forward to the tournament.”

Cooke got the win, allowing one run in five innings of work. The win gives Stoughton the bragging rights with a head to head victory over KP.

“The kids were aware of it,” Armour said of the bragging rights on the line. “With the two Hock division champs going head to head today, we definitely feel like we made a statement. In the grand scheme of things, we’re just trying to get ready for the tournament. We’ve just been putting the pieces together. We want to be playing our best baseball in the tournament. This group of kids, with what they’ve done and how hard they’ve worked, and the pride they have, I just want to do everything in my power to put them in a position to be successful.”

Stoughton baseball finishes the season with a 14-6 overall record and 13-3 in league play. King Philip finishes 15-5 overall and 11-5 in the league, finishing in a tie with Taunton for the Kelley-Rex crown. Seeds for the MIAA tournament will be released on Tuesday.

Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.

Stoughton Rallies For Walk-off Win Against Milford

Stoughton junior Justin Hutchinson struck out a career-high 11 batters on Friday afternoon. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
Stoughton junior Justin Hutchinson struck out a career-high 11 batters on Friday afternoon. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
STOUGHTON, Mass. – The Black Knights’ baseball team hasn’t faced a deficit very often this season, nor have they played in many close games. They had to deal with both on Friday afternoon, but that wasn’t necessarily such a bad thing for head coach Mike Armour.

Stoughton rallied from a 3-1 deficit, scoring a run in each the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, the last being a walk-off hit by junior Jack Connelly to hand the Black Knights their sixth win of the season.

“It’s good to be in games like that and it’s nice to win games like that,” Armour said. “Not being in a lot of close games, I think you could see our guys were making more errors then we’ve made all year. Not to take anything away from Milford, their kid pitched a hell of a game and they came to play today. At the same time, we got down a couple of runs and it kind of took the wind out of us before we got it back.”

Senior Jake Gibb was the catalyst of the comeback, starting with a big defensive play. He threw out a Milford base runner trying to steal second to give Stoughton some momentum heading to the bottom of the fifth. Stoughton capitalized with leadoff man Pat Hagerty drawing a walk on a full count and advancing to second on an infield hit from Doug Seaman. Gibb followed up with an RBI single through the left side, playing Hagerty to make it 3-2.

Seaman made a nice play at shortstop to end the top of the sixth and Stoughton used that momentum to tie the game in the bottom half. Luke Johnson reached on a hard hit ball that got through at second base and Justin Hutchinson’s hit was bobbled at shortstop to put two on with no outs. After a sac bunt from Nick Quattrucci advanced the runners, Hagerty plated Johnson with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-3.

“Gibb kind of had his coming out party [offensively] against Foxboro early this week and since then he’s just been mashing the ball,” Armour said. “And then another senior captain, Doug Seaman came in on the soft hit ball and made the play in the sixth inning. In a one run game, that’s big time baseball. It’s nice to see good things happen to the kids who do all the right things.”

Hutchinson shined on the mound in his seventh inning of work in the top of the final inning. He needed just 11 pitches to notch his ninth, 10th and 11th strikeouts of the game to give the Black Knights a wave of momentum entering the bottom of the seventh.

“I think Hutch got into a little zone there [towards the end],” Armour said. “He’s the one guy wehave that can throw a lot of pitches, he’s kind of got a rubber arm. He was not coming out of the game. It was nice seeing him kind of stepping up to another level and he really dealt in the top of the seventh.”

Gibb helped finish the rally he started two innings earlier, leading the bottom half with a double. Senior Kyle Romaine came in as a pitch runner for Stoughton and Connelly connected on a 2-2 pitch, driving the ball into left field, right out of the reach of a diving Alex Coady for the winning run.

“The boys woke up,” Armour said. “There’s a lot of talent on the team, their a tight group, everybody gets along so they expected to win. It’s just nice to see good things happen because they do a lot of the little things. A lot of the things I ask, and a lot of the times I don’t even have to ask, they do those things. It’s just about putting it all together.”

Both teams scored in the first inning before the Scarlet Hawks pulled away through the middle innings. In the top of the first, Chris Speroni led off with a single, moved to second when Coady reached on an error and then scored on a two-out RBI single from Anthony Arcudi to make it 1-0.

Gibb drew a two out walk in the bottom of the first, moved to second on a wild pitch and then to third when the throw to second sailed into the outfield. A single from Connelly plated Gibb to tie the game 1-1 after an inning.

The Scarlet Hawks tacked on a run in both the third and fourth innings. Coady walked and moved to second after an errant pickoff throw. Blake Hill reached on a fielder’s choice and then a throwing error allowed Coady to scamper home from third. Milford’s third run came in the fifth after a leadoff single from Nick Johnson. A sac bunt from Brian Ireland pushed Johnson to second and he came in to score on a triple from Alex Macek.

Both starters pitched well, with Hutchinson earning the win in a complete game effort. Hutchinson struck out a career-high 11 batters, scattering six hits and issuing just two walks. Macek was strong in his season debut on the mound for the Scarlet Hawks, allowing just one run in five innings of work while striking out six.

“Stoughton did a good job, they capitalized on our inability to finish seven innings, that’s been our problem all year,” Milford coach Paul Pellegrini said. “We haven’t played great defense and it shows sometimes. We had a couple mistakes there in the sixth. Whether they were errors or not, the ball was in front of us so we have to make those plays. We just haven’t completed a game yet. We had a lead on OA late the other day and the same thing, we made errors. You can’t do that against teams that can play.

“This was Alex’s first time on the mound all year. He’s our go to guy too, and that’s been part of the problem is having our top three pitchers out all year. Alex looked good, he felt good and that’s what good pitchers do. That was good to see because we’re going to really nice him going forward. We’re not a bad team that’s for sure, we’re better than 2-7 but we just need to play some better defense to show that.”

Stoughton baseball improves to 6-2 overall, 6-1 in league play and will be back in action on Monday when they host King Philip in a battle of division leaders. Milford (2-6, 2-7) will look to bounce back the same day when they play host to Franklin.

Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.

10-Run Fifth Gives Stoughton Win at Mansfield

Stoughton baseball
Jack Connelly (10) had a pair of hits, reached base four times, scored three runs and drove in a pair of runs against Mansfield on Monday. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry
 

MANSFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield bounced back from an early deficit with three runs in the bottom of the fourth, cutting the Stoughton lead to just one. In the top of the fifth, Hornets starter Jack Neureuter gave up a lead-off single but then retired the next two hitters and induced a grounder to third that looked likely to end the inning.

The Hornets were that close to being back at the plate down by just one, but the throw to first was wild and the inning stayed alive. The Black Knights took advantage and then some.

Stoughton sent 15 batters to the plate in the fifth (including 12 after the second out) and scored 10 runs with two outs to break the game wide open and cruise to a 14-3 victory at defending Kelley-Rex champion Mansfield in the season opener for both teams.

“Ten runs with two outs…I’ve never seen it since I’ve been here,” said Stoughton coach Mike Armour. “I’ve always had a soft spot for two-out RBI, so I think for our guys to just keep the train moving and to plate 10…it’s just pretty special.”

The Black Knights took the lead in the top of the second. Jack Connelly led off and was hit by a pitch. Joe Piana followed with a single to left and Connelly made it to third on a Chris McNulty fielder’s choice. Pat Hagerty plated the opening run with a groundout to first.

In the third, Stoughton put together a two-out rally to extend the lead. Jake Gibb (4-5, RBI) started it with a single to left, followed by a single from Doug Seaman (2-4). Connelly chased a 2-0 pitch at his eyes but then Neureuter came over the plate and the junior first baseman drove it to right center for a two-RBI triple. Piana made it 4-0 with an infield single.

It was only a precursor for what was to come in the fifth.

“From a pitching standpoint, we didn’t throw enough strikes early in the count,” said Mansfield coach Joe Breen. “We fell behind and had to throw too many good hitters’ pitches and they took advantage of all of those opportunities.”

Mansfield had a chance to cut the lead in the third, but Stoughton starter Ryan Sullivan, who struck out five in five innings of work, got Mike Arnold swinging with two runners in scoring position.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Hornets did bounce back and get on the scoreboard. Tyrone Pascual walked to begin the inning followed by a Kevin Dow single and both runners moved up on a Sullivan wild pitch. After a strikeout Jake Tryder knocked in both runs with a single. With two outs, Matt Farragher, who reached on a fielder’s choice, was brought home by a bloop double down the rightfield line by Charlie DeMassi.

“We do have a young team,” said Breen, “but we do have guys who have been tested in other sports…they know when you’re down you’re not out and it’s certainly a credit to our seniors for keeping our guys in check.”

The Hornets nearly carried that momentum into the fifth, but the error with two outs and a man on first turned into a game-changer. Nick Quattrucci singled in a run and the leadoff hitter Justin Hutchinson brought in two with a single to right. Sullivan, the ninth hitter of the inning, helped his own cause and brought in two with a double to right center that chased reliever Tyler Dalton (who came in the inning before).

Gibb followed with an RBI single off new pitcher Jon Needle. Seaman singled, Connelly walked and Piana got an RBI when he walked with the bases loaded. Facing the third Hornets pitcher of the inning, David Simmons, McNulty then added his second hit of the inning with a double down the line in left that scored a pair of runs and made it 14-3.

“It’s nice to see the bats come out blazing,” said Armour. “Guys were having good at-bats. I’m just proud of the guys and the approach they had. Putting up 14 runs on a club as good as Mansfield is a hell of a way to start the season.”

Breen remarked, “You let a one-run lead snowball and then next thing you know you’re chasing way too many and you’ve got to approach the game in a very different way after that.”

After having to battle through his previous two innings, Sullivan came out firing for the bottom of the fifth and pitched a perfect frame, including a couple of comebackers that he fielded cleanly.

Armour said of his No. 1 starter, “Sully is just a gamer. He’s got a cutter in the arsenal now and that ball’s been moving to go along with the fastball and the curve. He’s going to be tough.”

Junior Luke Johnson pitched the final two innings for the Black Knights, allowing only a single to Zack Peterson. Armour said, “It’s never over until that final out…and I think Luke coming in and being called on out of the blue…he rose to the occasion.”

Breen was disappointed in the final result, but acknowledged that it was only game one of a long season and admitted that the weather at the start of the spring had an impact on the team’s preparation.

He explained, “It’s tough to mimic live-ball, game-speed outside of games. I think we didn’t handle that very defensively today, especially on the infield…we just let it get a little out of control.”

Mansfield (0-1) will look to bounce back on Wednesday when it hosts division rival King Philip. Stoughton (1-0) will travel to Frothingham Park on Wednesday to face rival Oliver Ames.

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.