Hopkins Academy baseball takes down top-seeded Georgetown to advance to Div. 5 Final Four (PHOTOS)

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 06-11-2023 7:58 PM

GEORGETOWN — Every Hopkins Academy runner that crossed the plate popped up flexing, roaring and pointing. The Golden Hawks put two fingers in the air, and the dugout responded in kind.

Once the No. 9 seed from Hadley started rolling, it flattened No. 1 Georgetown in the MIAA Division 5 baseball state quarterfinals on the road Sunday. Hopkins Academy trailed by five runs after two innings but rallied like it has all year to an 11-9 victory.

“We’ve been down all year. We’ve been down every game in the state tournament,” Hopkins Academy catcher Patrick Fitzgibbons said. “We’ve got a bunch of dogs, and we hit. We don’t get down. We stay up. We feed off of each other’s energy.”

Georgetown’s early outburst would have sapped that energy from most teams. The Royals, with a lineup full of giants, tacked on two runs in the first inning with a sacrifice fly and a bases loaded walk.

Jake Gilstein extended the lead to 3-0 with a hit and run double in the second. Jason Gioia made it 4-0 with an RBI single, and Jake Thompson added another RBI walk to put the Golden Hawks in a hole.

That’s nothing new for the giant killers from the asparagus fields. Hopkins Academy’s Cody West drew a walk with two outs in the third, then Fitzgibbons traded places with him for an RBI double that put the Golden Hawks on the board. Liam Flynn followed with an RBI single that took a weird hop in front of the second baseman. After a walk, Alex West induced an error that made it 5-3. James Fitzgibbons’ RBI single made it 5-4 with the bases loaded and kept them loaded. A sharp lineout ended the inning, but Hopkins Academy arrived. 

“We’ve been a perseverance team all year,” Flynn said. “We knew we could do it here. Bigger stage, but we got it done.”

Flynn showed that persistence on the mound. He nibbled around the strike zone but wasn’t getting the calls even as he hit his spots. The tall lefty adjusted and trusted his defense more in the third and beyond, striking out two Royals as part of a 1-2-3 inning.

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That brought the Golden Hawks bats, which hadn’t cooled, back out. Cooper Beckwith led off the fourth with a single that skipped off the mound. Patrick Fitzgibbons walked with one out, then a Flynn single loaded the bases. Freshman Chace Earle brought in two runs to put Hopkins Academy ahead 6-5.

“When you string a bunch of hits together, there’s nothing more fun than that,” Patrick Fitzgibbons said. “Especially when you’re down and you’re working to get back a lead. You go down the list, everybody did something important.”

A sharp lineout to third that resulted in a double play ended the inning.

Gioia showcased his power in the bottom half, launching the ball well out beyond the fence to tie the game at 6. That didn’t faze Flynn. He retired the next two batters with his defense’s help.

“He had to be not the guy he usually is. He had to be the guy who throws to contact, and thank god we made most of the plays behind him,” Hopkins Academy coach Dan Vreeland said. “He changed his approach. I don’t think he changed how good he was, I think he just had to vary what he was doing.”

Even as Georgetown switched pitchers from ace Zach Gilmore, a lefty, to righty Jake Thompson, the Golden Hawks remained dialed in. Yuuki Ishida drew a walk top open the fifth. He was thrown out at second on James Fitzgibbons’ single, but Fitzgibbons stole second and game to third on a Jack Dyjach bunt single.

Beckwith dropped another single in to bring Fitzgibbons home and give Hopkins Academy the lead for good 7-6. The Golden Hawks stretched the lead to 8-6 on a wild pitch and 9-6 on a Patrick Fitzgibbons RBI double.

Flynn kept it there as he worked around a walk and an infield single in the fifth to preserve the lead and exhaust his pitches.

They knew a three-run lead wouldn’t suffice against the top seed, though. Georgetown’s Ethan Lee narrowed the margin to 9-7 with an RBI single against Al West, a sophomore with a mustache and guile beyond his years. With runners on first and third with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, West stepped off the rubber and caught the runners in no-man’s land. He ran at first base playing at a tag. The Georgetown runner on third took off for home, and West whipped a perfect throw to cut him down and end the inning.

Hopkins Academy loaded the bases again in the top of the seventh. Flynn added one more fingerprint to the game with an RBI single, and Earle pushed the lead to 11-7 with a sacrifice fly.

“We can’t be satisfied. We can’t be the type of team that’s happy with a two-run lead,” Vreeland said. “That shows how mature these guys are. They’ve all been here, they’ve been around.”

Georgetown scored two more in the bottom of the seventh, but West and the Golden Hawks pushed over the line to return to the state semifinals. They’ll face No. 5 Pioneer Regional at a site and time to be determined.

Hopkins Academy lost in in the quarterfinals last season but was a regular in the state semifinals as the Western Massachusetts champion over the last decade or so. The Golden Hawks won a state title in 2021. The Panthers haven’t seen Hopkins Academy in 2023 yet.

“We won a state before, but with this new format we haven’t been here yet. It feels good to be here, but we want to keep going,” Flynn said. “We’re not done yet.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>