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Perkins pitches Pittsfield to Division IV baseball championship

  • Pittsfield Boys Varsity Baseball defeated Littleton at the NE Delta Dental Stadium for the boys Division IV championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013.  Catcher, Wes Ward, hoists pitcher, Kris Perkins high in the air as the Pittsfield Panthers win the state championship.<br/>(Michael Munhall for the Monitor)

    Pittsfield Boys Varsity Baseball defeated Littleton at the NE Delta Dental Stadium for the boys Division IV championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. Catcher, Wes Ward, hoists pitcher, Kris Perkins high in the air as the Pittsfield Panthers win the state championship.
    (Michael Munhall for the Monitor)

  • Pittsfield Boys Varsity Baseball defeated Littleton at the NE Delta Dental Stadium for the boys Division IV championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013.  Tyler Stockman rejoices as he crosses home plate in his first inning home run of the game.<br/>(Michael Munhall for the Monitor)

    Pittsfield Boys Varsity Baseball defeated Littleton at the NE Delta Dental Stadium for the boys Division IV championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. Tyler Stockman rejoices as he crosses home plate in his first inning home run of the game.
    (Michael Munhall for the Monitor)

  • Pittsfield Boys Varsity Baseball defeated Littleton at the NE Delta Dental Stadium for the boys Division IV championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013.  Catcher, Wes Ward, hoists pitcher, Kris Perkins high in the air as the Pittsfield Panthers win the state championship.<br/>(Michael Munhall for the Monitor)
  • Pittsfield Boys Varsity Baseball defeated Littleton at the NE Delta Dental Stadium for the boys Division IV championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013.  Tyler Stockman rejoices as he crosses home plate in his first inning home run of the game.<br/>(Michael Munhall for the Monitor)

MANCHESTER – Most details of that day have become hazy as he’s grown from Pittsfield’s 6-year-old batboy into its 18-year-old second baseman, but Tyler Stockman remembers enough of the euphoria that followed the Panthers’ 2001 state championship – the screaming fans and the fire trucks, in particular – to know it was a moment he wanted to experience again.

He knew he wanted to live that moment as a player. He knew, in his senior year, his team was good enough to make that possible. And he knew, after knocking off the No. 2 seed, an opportunity 12 years in the making would come yesterday in the Division 4 title tilt against top-ranked Littleton.

But he never could’ve known his day would begin. Or how good it would feel in the end.

Stockman led off the game with an inside-the-park home run, instantly putting a lead in the left hand of Kris Perkins – who subsequently made sure to never give it up by striking out 14, not allowing a Littleton hit until the sixth inning, and ultimately delivering No. 3 Pittsfield a 5-1 victory that made it state champions for the first time in a dozen years.

“We needed to get a start like that,” said Rob Stockman, who is Tyler’s father, and is Pittsfield’s head coach after serving as an assistant for that ’01 squad. “I think that really settled us down, and you score a couple runs with Perkins on the mound you know you’re going to be in the game.”

Littleton (16-4) was barely tested over the course of three prior tournament wins that came by an aggregate count of 28-8. But the Crusaders were not sharp at the outset, and, as a testament to their own preparedness – “I thought they were ready,” Rob Stockman became convinced during batting practice – the Panthers (17-3) pounced on the opportunities presented.

It started with Tyler Stockman’s homer, on which he scored standing after his bloop toward the foul line eluded the dive of the Littleton right fielder, who stayed on the ground (then stayed in the game) instead of chasing down a ball that bounced not all that far past him.

But maybe more damning of the Crusaders’ early sloppiness was the sequence that led to the Panthers’ second run of the opening frame. Following Stockman, Max Tuttle reached on an error. He stole second, in part because a perfect throw from the catcher was dropped. He stole third when the middle infielders ignored him as he led away from second. Then he came home when Chris Farr’s liner short-hopped the left fielder.

With that it was 2-0 before Perkins threw a pitch. Considering he entered with a 40-inning scoreless streak, that appeared at the time something Littleton might come to regret. And the junior made certain of it.

Setting the tone with a 3-2 curveball to the Crusaders’ leadoff hitter, he struck out the side in the first and third innings, and was perfect the first time through the order. He eventually whiffed eight of the first 10 batters, and while a misplayed grounder eventually afforded Littleton its first baserunner with two outs in the fourth, Perkins responded by striking out the next five men he faced.

He needed only a fastball and a curveball to do it, but both were extraordinarily effective, and working with catcher Wes Ward to play one off the other he brilliantly kept opposing hitters off balance. He threw first-pitch strikes in 18 of 25 at-bats, didn’t walk anybody, and only three balls even reached the outfield.

“His curveball and his fastball, that’s all he needs. It’s crazy,” Ward said. “This was one of the best games he’s pitched.”

“Really the first inning I came out throwing,” Perkins said, “and right after we got that cushion with the 2-0 lead I knew what was on the line – and then we made it last.”

Perkins admitted afterward that inside he felt as though two runs would be enough to win. That’s reasonable confidence, considering he finished the spring with 122 strikeouts in 62 2∕3 innings, and with an earned run average of 0.79.

But if there was any doubt elsewhere, the offense erased it in the top of the sixth. Ward started the frame with his second hit, a sharp single to left. Then, after squaring to bunt on the first four pitches, Farr roped a safety of his own when the count got to 2-2.

Perkins was next, and he got his bunt down – but it was so good that his sacrifice instead became a single. That loaded the bases, and eventually all three would score: Ward on Branden Smith’s sacrifice fly; Farr on Jed Eastman’s single up the middle; and Perkins on Colby Clark’s pinch-hit single to center.

That made it 5-0, and though Mike Miller broke up the no-hit bid with a one-out single in the bottom half of that inning, then scored on Nick Walsh’s fielder’s choice, Perkins would let the Crusaders come no closer than getting the tying run to the on-deck circle. He did allow a solo run, but even that was unearned, and he thwarted Littleton’s lone threat by inducing a fielder’s choice with two men aboard to end the sixth.

Then he made sure the seventh was void of drama, getting the first two men on groundouts, then finishing things in a most-appropriate fashion. With a strikeout. And a pig pile.

“It feels great. We’ve been trying for this for four years. This is exactly how I thought it would feel,” Ward said, calling that feeling indescribable. “We’ve had chances in the past, but this is by far the best chance. Kris definitely led the team this year.”

The champion’s plaque in hand, Ward shared a postgame hug with his father, who was dressed in full fatigues, and whose military obligations cast some doubt about whether he’d be able to attend the final. It was a special moment between father and son – just as the Stockmans had when Tyler saw his dad waving him around second, then third, and thought to himself, “Holy crap.”

Less than two hours later, Rob presented his boy with his medal in a moment they talked about for 12 years. A moment they’d long awaited. A moment that deserved just one more finishing detail.

“I told my dad we have to get fire trucks. That’s the best part, the most memorable,” Tyler Stockman said. “I’ll remember this the rest of my life. It’s perfect.”

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