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.
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.