Photo: Cole Bartels on the mound.
Paraphrasing Tolstoy, all wins are alike; each defeat is lost in its own way.
For Belmont High School’s senior ace Cole Bartels, Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Reading Memorial High – securing the Middlesex Liberty Division championship to the Rockets – will go down as a tour-de-force performance spoiled by the flukes of the game that can make baseball such a cruel mistress to play.
“Déjà vu all over again,” said Marauder Head Coach Jim Brown, recalling a similar one-run heartbreaker to Reading for the league championship in 2007.
“Bartels pitched great. He did his job. We just could not get the timely hit,” said Brown. “We got hits; we got men on base. Someone just has to step up and get the hit at the right time.”
Pitching one of his best performance of the season, the Penn State-commit dominated the league leaders, striking out 11 while giving up only a pair of singles. After a few early inning “butterflies,” last year’s Middlesex League all-star got down to business, and in the process, threw one of the best two innings plus stretches from a starter in recent league memory.
After a leadoff walk to the number nine hitter in the bottom of the third, Bartels struck out the first two batters in the lineup on 1-2 counts with catcher Cal Christofori’s rocket throw to cut down the runner attempting to swipe second by a mile.
The fourth inning was a master class with Bartels’ fastball hit the low outside corner schooled the heart of Rockets order as the 3, 4, and 5 hitters each took the third strike looking. To cap the effort. Bartels sat down the first batter in the fifth on a reverse K.
“When I came out in the third it was just rock and fire,” said Bartels
It wasn’t as if Belmont hitters were as they had six hits off Reading. It was if Belmont was too eager at the plate, attempting to belt junior Corey DiLoreto’s off-speed offerings, only to lift the ball into the outfield.
The dark clouds crept over Belmont in the bottom of the sixth when Bartels had leadoff hitter Connor Mulligan down two strikes only to see three straight targeted pitches were deemed balls to the consternation of the Marauder coaching staff and bench, leading to a critical no out walk.
The games “big” hit traveled the least distance when right fielder Carl Gillies attempted to move Mulligan to second launched a bunt attempt in the air along the third base line. But rather then an easy out, the ball looped over third base David Bailey who was charging the plate.
“What do you do? Normally a pop-up bunt is a certain out,” said Brown.
Making matters more difficult, a passed ball by Bartels’ battery mate Christofori placed runners in scoring a position at second and third with one out. After a strike out, an intentional walk to load the bases for left fielder Tommy White to loft a fly ball deep enough into center field to score Mulligan.
It was then up to DiLoreto to set down Belmont in order for the clinching victory.
“I couldn’t ask much more from my team. They try as hard as they could with good effort. It just wasn’t our day,” said Bartels.
Bartels and Belmont will see the Rockets this weekend in the opening game of the annual Brendan Grant Tournament at 2 p.m., Friday, May 27.
Belmont, whose pitching staff sports a 1.00 ERA, has the throwers to make a run in the playoffs but like last season, hitting and runs remain a bugaboo for the team.
“We have to put the right pieces of the puzzle together” which may require a lineup change,” said Brown. “It could be putting kids in different parts of the lineup and just getting a hit,” he said.
For Bartels, the playoffs can’t happen fast enough.
“I feel extremely good. We’re going to be a great team and accomplish special things this post season,” he said.