D-III Baseball: Crawford pitches Hopkinton past No. 1 Belmont, into title game

  • The Hopkinton baseball team celebrates on the field after defeating No. 1 Belmont, 4-2, in the Division III semifinals at Robbie Mills Field in Laconia on Monday. The Hawks will take on No. 6 White Mountains in Saturday’s championship. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

  • Hopkinton’s Caleb Yianakopolos fields a ball at third base and throws out the runner during the Division III semifinals against Belmont at Robbie Mills Field in Laconia. Hopkinton won, 4-2. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

  • Belmont catcher Cam Magerer (left) tags out Hopkinton’s Brendan Elrick at home plate during Monday’s Division III semifinal contest. Courtesy of Taylor Yianakopolos

  • Hopkinton’s Kevin Newton-Delgado connects with the ball late during Monday’s Division III semifinal against Belmont at Robbie Mills Field in Laconia. The Hawks beat the Raiders, 4-2, to advance to the championship game. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

Monitor staff
Published: 6/3/2019 11:10:51 PM

LACONIA – He gave up a double on the first pitch, a run in the first inning and didn’t have his best stuff.

None of that mattered to Sam Crawford.

The Hopkinton junior worked all seven innings of Monday’s Division III baseball semifinal against No. 1 Belmont, giving up seven hits, walking none, striking out two and allowing two runs, only one earned, as the No. 4 Hawks pulled off a 4-2 win at Robbie Mills Field in Laconia.

“Nothing was feeling as good as it has been in the past, but it was good enough today that I could battle through to the end,” Crawford said. “I just had to work on everything instead of having that one pitch to rely on.”

Hopkinton (16-4) has had one pitcher to rely on in the postseason with Crawford earning all three of their wins. He needed just 49 pitches to work five innings of two-run ball in Hopkinton’s 6-2 first-round win against Winnisquam. He pitched 1 ⅔ innings of relief and earned the win (and delivered the game-winning hit) in the 7-6 quarterfinal win against Campbell on Saturday. Crawford made it three wins in a row on Monday and he will be available to pitch again on Saturday in the final against defending-champion White Mountains, which beat No. 2 Gilford, 3-2, in Monday’s first semifinal.

“Crawford is a hell of a pitcher,” Hopkinton coach Dave Chase said. “He’s a competitor and he puts the ball where we need it to go. He changed speeds and the guys are making plays behind him.”

Belmont coach Matt LeBlanc agreed.

“We knew what we were going to get with Crawford pitching and Hopkinton on the other side of the field,” LeBlanc said. “They’re a good team, well-coached and fundamentally sound, so we knew that it would be a dog fight all day.”

Belmont’s Colby Brown came ready to fight. The senior laced Crawford’s first pitch down the third base line for a double and eventually came home on a ground ball from Brett Auclair to give the Raiders (15-3) a 1-0 lead.

On the other side, Auclair kept Hopkinton scoreless through the first two innings with a mix of lefty junk. But the Hawks used small ball, and some Belmont miscues, to score three runs in the third.

Hopkinton’s Peyton Marshall (2-for-3) reached on an error, as did Jack Morrall, and then Caleb Yianakopolos loaded the bases when the Raiders forgot to cover first on his bunt. Marshall scored on a wild pitch, Morrall came home on a ground out from Crawford, and Yianakopolos (3-for-4) scored on Larsen Burack’s single, the only hard hit ball of the inning, to make it 3-1.

“We put the ball on the ground and they started throwing it away,” Chase said. “You could see it was like they got the yips out there a little bit.”

The Hawks looked like they might add another in the fourth, but Austin Didsbury made a nice throw from right field to cut down a runner at the plate. Hopkinton did add an insurance run in the seventh off Auclair (seven innings pitched, six hits, zero walks, one strikeout, one earned run) when Marshall scored on a misplayed bunt from Yianakopolos. The extra run gave the Hawks some extra breathing room in what turned out to be a dicey bottom of the seventh.

Hopkinton’s strength is its attention to detail and ability to make the routine plays, but an uncharacteristic error in the seventh put Belmont’s Jason Gaudette on base with one out. Brown (2-for-4) followed that up with his second double of the game to put runners on second and third. Chase decided to walk Griffin Embree, who was 3-for-3 at that point, to load the bases. Crawford then hit Cam Magerer to make it 4-2 and give the Raiders life.

“That’s pretty much how we were all season. These guys, if they proved anything, it’s that they can take a punch and deliver one back,” Belmont’s LeBlanc said. “Every game they battled and they battled.”

The only problem for the Raiders – Crawford was battling, too. After hitting Magerer, Crawford induced two shallow fly balls, and the outfield made both plays, to end the threat and send his team to the championship.

“In the last inning I got tired and my mechanics started breaking down, and that’s what coach came out to talk to me about,” Crawford said. “In the end I finally put a couple pitches where I wanted to put them and they hit ‘em up in the air and we were able to finish out the game.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20)

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