WORCESTER, Mass. -- Usually, a state final pits a team’s best against another team’s best. Both teams battle through tournament brackets to play for the state title, playing its best at the most opportune time.
Then there is a game like Saturday’s Division 3 State Baseball Final, which began the way neither wanted it to.
Monument Mountain put two runs on the board in the top of the first, but Bellingham came back in the bottom of the inning with five runs of its own. The Spartans scored three more in the top of the second to tie the score.
The bats quieted over the next three innings until Bellingham exploded for five more in the fifth. In total, the Blackhawks touched Monument Mountain pitcher Peter Oggiani for 11 runs on its way to a 11-6 state championship victory.
“This feels absolutely amazing,” said Bellingham’s Kevin Martinis after the game. “Nine of us have been together since we were eight years old and we’ve won multiple championships, so we knew each other as a team. I just love being a leader on this team behind David Sampson. I just love playing behind him”
Sampson came on in relief for Bellingham in the third inning and shut down the Monument Mountain lineup. The Spartans had jumped on starter Connor Birch early and it appeared the game could have more of a football score than a baseball score. Sampson gave up only one run over the remaining five innings.
“That’s what he’s done all year,” said Bellingham coach T.J. Chiappone. “We knew we had that in our back pocket today. I give them credit, they hit Connor hard. We knew we had everyone in the bullpen today, but a lot of times I just think you need Dave. That’s what he’s done all year.”
Monument Mountain tried everything it could against Sampson, even stepping out of the batters box multiple times to try and disrupt the pace of the fast-working righty. They could only muster five hits over the remaining five innings.
“I noticed right away (they were stepping out a lot),” said Sampson. “I just stood there like, ‘Alright, let’s go. Let’s get in the box'.”
He struck out the side in the sixth inning, immediately after the Bellingham lineup put up five runs in the bottom of the fifth. No amount of stepping out of the batters box helped Monument Mountain.
“Every single batter that inning took their time getting in the box,” said Sampson. “I was just like okay, if you’re going to take your time, I’m just going to sit you down.”
Monument Mountain senior and Vassar College commit Bobby Kinne went 4-for-4 for the Spartans with one RBI and two runs scored.
Spartans coach Tom Hankey stuck with his starter, for better or worse, in the late innings. With one runner on and his team down 9-6, the coach walked to the mound to check on his starter. Brad Rebello had just tripled to plate the third run of the inning.
Hankey left Oggiani in the game, and he promptly gave up a two-run homer to Martinis. The senior jumped on a first-pitch fastball as it had for most of the game and launched it over the left field wall.
It was a suitable exclamation point on Bellingham’s season. For the first time in the school’s history, it is the Division 3 state baseball champion.
Sampson digs in: Saturday was Sampson’s second outing in a week. The senior righthander threw 119 pitches in Bellingham’s 2-1 extra-inning victory over North Reading in the Eastern Mass finals Tuesday. He threw 84 pitches Saturday, allowing only one run on five hits while striking out eight and walking only one batter.
“With the situation of the game and everything, I felt amazing coming into this game,” said the pitcher. “Just with the adrenaline rush, I knew I was going to go in there throwing hard and being able to throw strikes, and I just felt really good about this.”
Since Saturday was the last game of the season for both teams, Chiappone planned on having all hands on deck in his bullpen. He knew he was going to use Sampson at some point Saturday, but with Birch’s early struggles, he went to the Southern New Hampshire commit earlier than intended.
“Certainly we didn’t think we’d use him by the third inning, but he’s a horse,” said the coach. “He’s a big, strong kid and he throws a lot of fastballs. The three days rest thing made us nervous. He beat North Reading and didn’t have his best stuff, we think he was tiring and tiring, so we knew he couldn’t do seven innings. But we knew he had some left.”