MANCHESTER – Open the door an inch for a senior-laden baseball team, and it will smash its way through.
The Hopkinton High School baseball team did just that Saturday in the Division III championship game against Campbell, taking advantage of an error to score four runs in the fourth inning.
And with the way Hawks’ starter Sam Bonifant was throwing, those four runs were more than enough, as No. 1 Hopkinton defeated No. 3 Campbell, the defending champion, 4-0 to win the title at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester.
Bonifant pitched a shutout for the Hawks (20-1), striking out just two, but scattering four hits and a walk, as no Campbell (16-5) runner advanced past second base. The senior also delivered a two-run single in the fourth to give himself all the runs he needed.
“We’ve said all season long, if you give Bonifant four runs, you’re going to win the game,” Hopkinton coach David Chase said. “You could just see all the tension came out. They were waiting to go. The smiles started coming. No one is scoring four off Bonifant. Whether that’s true or not, they believed it.”
Connor Sahlin took the loss for the Cougars, going six innings and striking out seven while allowing four unearned runs on five hits and three walks. The Campbell sophomore was perfect through the first 3 2/3, but a two-out walk to Sam McManus kept the Hawks alive in the fourth.
Jake Nelson followed with a single, advancing McManus to third, and Matt McCormack hit a slow roller to second baseman Cade LaCroix.
LaCroix fielded the ball just a few feet away from first, but his throw was nowhere near first baseman Nick Freson. McManus scored on the play for a 1-0 lead, and Wes Rose, who ran for Nelson, went to third on the error. Bonifant singled to score Rose and McCormick to make it 3-0.
Jay White singled and Matt Gleason, who ran for Bonifant, went from first to third on the hit. The Hawks then attempted a double steal, and Gleason scored when the throw home got away from catcher Cody Caron.
Sahlin finally got out of the inning by striking out Frankie Beane.
“Connor was throwing strong until that inning,” Campbell coach Jim Gorham said. “That ground ball barely went 90 feet. We couldn’t get the ball into the first baseman’s mitt, that’s all it was. When you have that many seniors, it might be a cliché, but it’s like sharks circling bloody waters when you open the door for them. This is their last shot and they’re going to make the most of it.”
Campbell put two runners on with two out in both the top of the first and the fifth innings, but couldn’t get much going against Bonifant.
“I knew they were a good hitting team, but luckily, I had all three pitches working for me and I was able to throw them,” he said. “I was able to locate the fastball. My changeup had sink, which usually it’s accurate, but when it has sink, its better. And I was able to spot my curveball.”
The win was the 18th in a row to end the season for Hopkinton. The Hawks only loss of the year was an 11-2 defeat at Campbell on April 13, but Hopkinton returned the favor, beating the Cougars 12-2 on May 14.
“That took the monkey off our back as far as thinking this team (Campbell) could not be beaten,” Chase said. “When you have seniors who want it, everyone else is going to follow. All they wanted to do was win a baseball game.”