Photo: Dennis Crowley (right) celebrating his walk-off double which won the season opener for Belmont.
After spending the entire baseball season opener on the bench, Belmont High School Junior Dennis Crowley was just looking for any chance to help the team in the first game. And with a little preseason training, he felt he was ready.
“I worked out with [former Reading High baseball] Coach [Peter] Moscariello, and he tells us to stay locked in, being green light all the time and you’ll get your opportunity. That’s all I wanted,” said Crowley.
When his time came in the bottom of the 7th inning to grab a bat and pitch hit for junior Ryan Noone, Crowley rose to the challenge blasting a one-out double to give the Marauders an exciting 3-2 walk-off win over a strong Melrose High squad on Tuesday, April 11.
“It was a fastball up, and I was hoping to give it a ride,” said Crowley, who clocked the pitch over the right fielder scoring pinch runner junior Max Meier running for junior DH Andrew Mazzone who singled and was sacrificed to second by senior second base Noah Riley.
“Let’s not [win like] this 18 times this year. I’m too old for this,” said long-time head coach Joe Brown. After the dramatics of the first game, Belmont nailed down a pair of confident wins, 10-1 over Concord Carlie on Wednesday and 14-0 against league opponent Stoneham, 14-0, on Thursday.
The team enters the Spring recess undefeated at 3-0 and ranked 17th in the Boston Herald’s Eastern Mass Top 25 poll.
“We certainly are showing some early season promise. Our pitchers have been keeping the ball off the center of the plate, and our defense has been solid so far,” said Brown speaking of the three earn runs given up this season.
Crowley heroics rescued a solid pitching effort by Belmont’s junior righty Nate Espelin who gave up a pair of earned runs on three hits over six innings with three strikeouts on 79 pitches.
“I felt fine out there. I left a lot of pitches up [in the strike zone] where they could hit them. That has been something that has to be approved on. You only get better from here, right?” asked Espelin.
After going up a run in the bottom of the fourth when junior first base Noone (2-3, two runs) scored on a single by senior right fielder Paul Ramsey, Melrose scratched back a run on a bloop single, a throwing error by Espelin and a sacrifice to drive in Melrose’s first base Mike DiRaffaele.
Melrose took the lead in the top of the fifth on a walk and a pair of singles including a sharp liner that hit off Espelin’s foot that brought home Melrose catcher Shane Correale. The damage could have been worse but for a diving grab by Riley to beat the Melrose runner at first by half a step.
It didn’t take long for Belmont to tie up the contest as Noone second single started the rally in the bottom of the fifth. Sophomore shortstop Francisco “Cisco” Rodriguez sacrificed Noone to second then advanced to third after Noone big lead off second caused Melrose pitcher John Casparriello to commit a balk. Senior centerfield Bryan Goodwin put the bat on the ball and drove Noone home on an infield hit.
Brown said he’ll go with a “small ball” philosophy to “put pressure on their defense. We’ve practiced that so it’s great to see it work out.”
On Wednesday, Meier gave up a single run as the Belmont offense took it to the host Patriots in Concord. Noone, who went 4 for 6 in the first two games, unloaded a triple in the top of the first to drive in two runs followed by rbi singles from Riley and Meier to effective seal the win very early.
Thursday saw Brown put out lanky junior Jake Pollord to face Stoneham going five innings without allowing a run while striking out six in the blowout. Senior Captain Cal Christofori and Mazzone each put in an inning of relief work preserving the shutout.
The offense was led by Rodriguez who broke out going 3-4 with three RBIs while playing a solid short having developed a cannon of an arm since his freshman year.
Belmont will be back in action on Wednesday, April 19 away at Wilmington and then a Friday, April 21 home match against Arlington, both games starting at 10 a.m.