Photo Gallery | Monument Mountain defeated by Bellingham in Mass. state finals
WORCESTER - The scoreboard at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field may have told the story, but the members of the Monument Mountain baseball team weren't going to let that story be a sad one.
Eastern Massachusetts champion Bellingham broke open a one-run game with five runs in the fifth inning and David Sampson struck out eight in five innings of relief as the Spartans fell 11-6 in the MIAA Division III championship game on Saturday.
It was a bit of a rocky road for the Spartans, who committed five errors and gave up 15 hits to the Blackhawks.
"I'm kind of the comedian of the team. There was a genuine moment in the dugout just now. I just said 'You guys have impacted my life. I hope I've done the same in some sort of positive manner,' " said Monument catcher T.J. Shumsky. "This is a lot deeper than baseball. This was a brotherhood coming together."
The Spartans had won their first-ever Western Mass. baseball championship seven days earlier and, like the Blackhawks, were going after their first-ever state baseball title.
"It's pretty surreal to be here. We tried to soak it in all day," said Monument shortstop Bobby Kinne, who finished his Monument career by going 4 for 4 with a run batted in and two runs scored. "Bellingham is a great team, congrats to them. They deserve the state championship.
"We're a very deserving runner-up. We have a great team and a great group of guys. We had a blast doing it."
The Spartans were rocked for five runs in the first inning on five hits and two costly errors, falling behind 5-2. Coach Tom Hankey's team has been resilient all season, and was again on Saturday. Monument batted around, scoring three runs on three hits. Starting pitcher Peter Oggiani's RBI single made it 5-5.
The Blackhawks took the lead for keeps in the home second in a manner uncharacteristic of Hankey's team.
With one out, Oggiani walked Kyle Goulet on a 3-2 pitch and promptly wild-pitched Goulet to second. With Brad Rebello up, Oggiani tried to pick Goulet off second and threw the ball into short center field for an error. Brandon Perry's throw from center eluded third baseman Nate Cormier and Goulet scored the tie-breaking run.
The Spartans committed four errors in the first two innings.
Normally, a six-run, 10-hit offensive performance would be enough to get in the win column. Not on this Saturday afternoon.
"We did some uncharacteristic stuff," said Hankey. "We made some mistakes that we haven't done all year."
One of those errors doesn't get registered as such, but came when Dominic DeFelice couldn't put down a squeeze bunt with runners on the corners and a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Oggiani was caught in a rundown and Shumsky was doubled up trying to get to third.
"It's bound to happen. Every team has an off day," said Shumsky. "We just had it on a bad day."
For the next two innings, the game settled into a scoreless rhythm. Oggiani held the Blackhawks off the board while Bellingham coach T.J. Chiappone went to his bullpen as David Sampson relieved Connor Birch. Birch had given up five runs on five hits in two innings.
All Sampson did was hold the Spartans to a meaningless run on five hits in five innings, striking out eight.
"The fastball, I was throwing that pretty hard today, so I was throwing it up and was getting them to chase it," Sampson said. "My curveball was working pretty good today as well."
Sampson was the starting pitcher in the Blackhawks' state semifinal victory over North Reading and had thrown 10 complete games this year.
"The three-day rest thing made us a little nervous," said Chiappone. "We beat North Reading and he didn't have his best stuff. We thought he was tiring. We knew we couldn't do seven, but we knew he had some left."
Sampson had plenty left on the hill, and the Blackhawks had plenty left offensively as they erupted for five more runs on five hits in the fifth.
The key blows of the inning were an RBI triple by Brad Rebello and a two-run home run by Kevin Martinis on the next pitch. Martinis' blast cleared the fence in left field to plate Bellingham's 10th and 11th runs.
For Monument, Shumsky and right fielder Henri Morrison both finished their seasons with two hits each.
"I think [athletic director Paul Gibbons] is going to make room for one banner, but it'll be a little bit bigger than the rest of them is my guess," said Hankey. "You never know.
"It's been a fun year. It's been a great ride."
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Monument 230 000 1 - 6 10 5
Bellingham 510 050 x - 11 15 0
Peter Oggiani and T.J. Shumsky. Connor Birch (2), David Sampson (5) and Michael Ryan. W-Sampson. L-Oggiani. 2B-MM 2 (Bobby Kinne, Henri Morrison). B 2 (Kyle Goulet, Anthony Crowley). 3B-B 1 (Brad Rebello). HR-B 1 (Kevin Martinis).