The Hopkinton Hillers took the 45-minute bus ride to Stoughton High School and made themselves right at home.
As the higher seed (Hopkinton is the top seed in the MIAA Division 2 South Sectional baseball tournament; Stoughton was seeded fifth) playing on the Black Knights’ home turf (Anthony Novello Field was selected to host the game as a pre-determined neutral site), the Hillers sent 12 batters to the plate and scored six times in the fifth inning to break open a 2-0 game en route to a 12-1 romp in Wednesday afternoon’s semifinal-round matchup.
The win improves the Hillers to 15-5 and sends them on to the sectional final against seventh-seeded Westwood (14-9).
The loss ends the Black Knights’ season at 14-9.
“We ran out of gas,” Stoughton coach Mike Armour said, “but that’s baseball. A couple of things didn’t go our way early. It kind of got away from us. So tip your hat to Hopkinton. They were the better team today. We just weren’t good enough today.”
With sophomore lefthander Joel Fischer limiting them to five hits and striking out seven over his six innings of work, Stoughton didn’t score until the top of the seventh innng when James Genest III doubled, Michael Navarro singled and Genest came home on an infield grounder.
A bizarre sequence in the top of the second inning saw the Black Knights put back-to-back runners on base – on a single and an error – and both get easily picked off by Fischer.
The first of four Stoughton pitchers on the day, righthander Even Jackman (who worked into the fifth inning) responded by getting out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the bottom half of the inning with a foulout and a routine groundout.
Another baserunning mishap in the third saw a failed suicide squeeze allow Fischer to escape a first-and-third jam with no outs. Kyle Gagnon led off with a double up the gap in left-center field that Noah Johnson followed with a sharp single to center, but Fischer sandwiched strikeouts around the missed bunt that resulted in a third Stoughton out on the base paths.
The Black Knights would have yet another runner, their fourth of the game, cut down on the bases in the sixth inning.
“We definitely didn’t do ourselves any favors on the bases,” said Armour. “We have to be better than that.”
The Hillers broke through for two in the fourth when Ronnie Shamus was hit by a pitch and Conor Kelly followed with a long double to straightaway center field and both scored on infield groundouts. Further damage was averted, however, when Gagnon made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch in deep left field with a runner on second to end the inning.
“Evan Jackman came out and kept us in the game,” said Armour. “Bottom line, it was a zero-zero game going into the last of the fourth inning, and that’s a tribute to Ev.”
Hopkinton broke the game wide open in the fifth, scoring six times in an inning that included a two-run single by Shamus, an RBI single by Conor Kelly, an RBI triple by Brendan Kelly and a run-producing base hit by Alex Barker-Hook.
The Hillers tacked on another four in the sixth, an inning that featured a long two-run triple by Ben McKenzie.