Jake Kosakowski’s walk-off sends Hopkins Academy to state Division 4 baseball final

Last modified: Tuesday, August 05, 2014
AMHERST — In the sectional title game Saturday, Hopkins Academy outfielder Jake Kosakowski did not swing the bat once, sacrificing all three times at the plate to help his team emerge with a win.

The senior played another kind of hero in Tuesday’s state Division 4 semifinal.

Kosakowski’s walk-off single drove in Zach Kelley with the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth as the Golden Hawks defeated Oxford 2-1 at UMass’ Earl Lorden Field.

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“What could be more fitting than for the guy I wouldn’t allow to swing the bat last game and who puts down three perfect bunts to come up with the winning hit?” Hopkins coach Jordan Branson said. “Jake picked me up and the entire team up. We trust him completely, he’s one of our best hitters.”

The team’s fourth hit of the game made a winner of eighth-grade pitcher Jonathan Morrison, who fired a 4-hitter with 11 strikeouts and just one walk over the full eight innings.

“Jonathan has tremendous stuff, throws a number of different pitches, but his poise is off the charts for someone of any age,” Branson said. “He truly buys into the whole ‘staying within yourself’ thing. He makes his pitches and trusts his defense.”

Hopkins (14-9) advanced to a state championship game for the first time since winning the Division 3 crown in 1985.

The Hawks will face either Lowell Catholic (21-2) or Pope John (24-0) Saturday at noon at Holy Cross. The other state semifinal is Wednesday at 4 p.m.

In the eighth, the Golden Hawks loaded the bases with nobody out as John Jacques walked, Evan Delaney singled and Zach Kelley was put on intentionally after Delaney took second base.

“Each guy on our team plays for everyone else, and I have to give the credit to the guys in front of me getting on base to make the win possible,” Kosakowski said. “Everyone does his part, and none of us try to do more than we’re capable.”

With the infield pulled in, Brett Morrison and Andrew Omer both hit into force plays at the plate. Omer attempted a safety squeeze, but relief pitcher Jared Buckley pounced off the mound to make the play for the second out.

As Buckley struggled with his control, Kosakowski ran the count to 2-1, then fouled off a pitch that appeared high.

“Since (Buckley) pitched the inning before, I saw he was pretty much all hard fastballs,” Kosakowski said. “So I looked for a fastball somewhere I could handle. The pitch before, I swung at one over my head, which was a bad decision. But I had another chance.”

He punched the 2-2 offering between the first and second baseman and into right field.

The victory was the third straight for Hopkins at Lorden, which is roughly five miles from the school.

Jonathan Morrison stranded the potential go-ahead run in the top of the eighth. Steve Lemieux led off with a single and stood on third with two outs, but Morrison fanned Liam Pickett with his 97th pitch.

“He had plenty of gas left, his stuff was still working,” Branson said. “He really deserved to get the win.”

The lanky right-hander was perfect through three frames, as opposed to his start last Wednesday in the sectional semifinal when he gave up five runs in the first two innings.

“I felt much more comfortable in this game, mainly because I’d already pitched on this field in a playoff game,” Morrison said. “I was able to trust my pitches.”

Oxford starter Lemieux had a no-hitter through five innings. The lefty allowed only two hits and struck out seven in six innings. He escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the bottom of the first.

“Their pitcher threw hard with a good curve and had strong command,” Branson said. “He was one of the best we’ve seen all year. But this team simply hangs in there and keeps the same approach.”

Trailing 1-0 in the last of the sixth, Delaney picked up the Hawks’ first hit to lead off. Kelley followed with another single as Delaney went to third.

Brett Morrison grounded into a fielder’s choice to bring in Delaney and tie it 1-1. Lemieux retired the next two batters to keep things even.

“Not a lot of hits on either side, both pitchers were dealing,” Kosakowski said. “The top of our lineup picked us up when we needed them to.”

Delaney went 2 for 4 and scored a run for Hopkins. Kelley and Kosakowski had the other two hits, while Brett Morrison picked up an RBI.

Buckley took over in the seventh and easily dispatched Hopkins, but immediately ran into trouble in the eighth.

The central Mass. champion Pirates (22-3) scratched out a run in the fifth. Zakk Renihan singled in James Sheehan with two outs, but Jonathan Morrison fanned Dennis Sneade to strand two.

“We didn’t know much about those guys, so I just went off what I saw from them at the plate,” Morrison said. “They were timing my fastball pretty well, so I stayed with my breaking stuff.”

Oxford appeared poised to tack on a insurance run in the sixth as Pickett singled and stole second with nobody out.

Pickett then tried to take third on a pitch in the dirt, but Hopkins catcher Chewy Garand picked it on his backhand and fired a strike to Pat Knightly to cut down the runner.

The Golden Hawks know their last game will be Saturday, and their second-year coach likes the odds.

“Two teams show up, one of them has to win,” Branson said. “Why not us?”

Michael Wilkinson can be reached at mwilkinson@gazettenet.com.

Hopkins 2, Oxford 1 (8)

Oxford 000 100 00—1 4 1

Hopkins 000 001 01—2 4 1

WP - Morrison; LP - Buckley

Records: Oxford (22-3); Hopkins (14-9)