SWAMPSCOTT — After seven innings of some lights-out pitching on both sides, it was pretty clear nobody was going to hit the ball over the fence at Swampscott Middle School’s baseball field.
This would take some smallball. And it worked as the Sox defeated the Kingston Night Owls Monday, 1-0, in an eight-inning, tingling mound duel.
The win puts the Sox back into the best-of-seven finals, down a game with Game 4 up next in Haverhill (8) on Wednesday.
Swampscott’s Esteban Paula walked with one out in the eighth inning, and it became paramount that the most important thing for the Sox was to get him down to second without sacrificing another out.
Swampscott manager Joe Caponigro’s preferred method, especially after Joe Kasper struck out, was to have Paula take off with the pitch.
Parra made contact just as Paula was nearing second base. Still, it looked as if Kingston reliever Evan Penny was about to do what both Mike Richardson of the Sox and Jeff Williams of Kingston had done all night: make a big pitch when the pressure was on.
He got Parra to hit a ground ball to shortstop. However, the ball took a vicious hop at the last second and hit Nick Cumei and bounded into left field, and in a spot where no one could get to it easily.
Paula never broke stride.
“It was a gamble (sending him),” said Caponigro. “But it’s a gamble I’ll take. It’s something you have to do in a situation like that.”
He kept running around third and took a textbook turn toward toward home. It looked as if the play would be close as the throw and Paula arrived around the same time. But the throw was bobbled, and Paula slid home with the winning run.
“I know how Paula runs the bases,” said Caponigro, who coached him at English for four years. “He’s a fast runner and he doesn’t take wide turns.
“I wouldn’t have been upset had he been tagged out,” said Caponigro. “That’s baseball. That’s how you win. You have to take chances like that.”
Richardson gave up four hits and pitched to contact all night.
“He has a changeup, and it’s a good one,” said Caponigro. “And it was really effective tonight. He pitched a great game.”
If Richardson had one problem, it was walks. For four straight innings, he put a runner on base via bases on balls. But he managed to keep those runners from scoring
For his part, Williams matched Richardson pitch for pitch through seven innings. He only gave up three hits, and struck out five.