Belmont High Baseball Battles #1 St. John’s (S) Before Falling 3-1

 Photo: Steve Rizzuto scoring Belmont’s lone run in a 3-1 defeat by number one St. John’s of Shrewsbury. 

The Boston Herald’s Danny Ventura‏, the region’s most prominent writer of high school sports, tweeted this week that it was “Too bad Belmont [Baseball] had to play the top-seed [St. John’s Shrewsbury in the first round of the MIAA Super Eight baseball playoffs], they should not have been the eighth seed in the first place.”
 
On Thursday, Belmont High Baseball proved Ventura correct when the Marauders kept the state’s consensus number 1 team in check for nearly the entire game, coming up just short in a 3-1 loss in the opening game of the elite eight tournament held in Shrewsbury, Thursday, June 1.
 
“It was a great game,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Jim Brown. “We knew it would be close; they had their D1 (Division 1 college prospect Ian Seymour), and we had our best [southpaw Nate Espelin] going. While [Espelin] was little shaky in the first inning, he settled down and [junior righthander Max Meier] closed out a strong game pitching.”
 
The nine-inning game (as opposed to the seven innings played during the regular high school season) was a tight affair. Espelin got the first two batters out in the first but three singles on top of a hit batsman resulted in two runs (RBIs to St. John’s’ Tom Mochella and Jack Fields) crossing the plate.
 
But if the Pioneers were expecting to walk over the eight seed, they would end up disappointed as Espelin, and Belmont found its bearings and kept the game within two through the middle innings. 
 
While the Marauders did make contact with some hard hit balls as second base Steve Rizzuto – going 2-4 as he continues with the hot late season bat – got to  Seymour in the first for a single while leadoff batter left fielder Connor Dacey flew deep to right, Belmont would have to wait to get their next two hits; in the fourth, a senior catcher Cal Christofori single (that was whipped out on a double play) and the fifth on a two-out single from designated hitter Ryan Noone.

“We just didn’t get enough timely hits when we needed them. But we swung a good bat and played great defense,” said Brown, noting the play from senior center fielder Bryan Goodwin who expertly handled the wide open range of the field’s outfield as its nearly 400 feet to the deep center field fence.

Belmont finally took the measure of Seymour in the top of the 6th as Rizzuto scored from first on a monster one-out gap double to deep center field by Christofori (2-4 in the game) who is batting a spectacular .750 in his last five games, cutting the deficit to 2-1.

But the Pioneers rallied in the bottom frame, scoring on a single, a walk and then a one-out single from right fielder Bailey Mikule to give the home squad a two-run cushion and to end Espelin’s standout performance with three strikeouts while giving three earned runs on seven singles. Meier finished the game with two scoreless innings striking out four of the seven batters he faced.

Seymour (eight strikeouts, one earned run on five hits) got out of his final jam in the eighth as he struck out Christofori for the final out with Rizzuto on first.

Next up for Belmont is a losers bracket game vs. Braintree which has been pushed back from Monday to Thursday due to the rainy weather. The game is now scheduled at Campanelli Stadium in Brockton, home of the Brockton Rox of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League of New England, on Thursday, June 8 at 7 p.m. The stadium’s address is 700 Belmont St. (easy to remember).

Braintree is the two-time defending state champion that narrowly lost to Boston College High, 3-2, in its opening round game.

“Anyone you play in this tournament is going to be great. [Braintree] could have their number one pitcher come back so we get a scouting report on them and get ready,” said Brown.

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