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.