Photo: Belmont High Baseball
It appeared that eight-seed Belmont High Baseball would finally do what no team could in the past two years; knock out two-time defending champions Braintree High School from the Super Eight baseball tournament.
Leading 4-1 entering the bottom of the ninth, Belmont took the field having just scored a pair of what appeared to be insurance runs and surviving a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the eighth and now were three outs away from the monumental upset.
But a one-out three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning by Braintree’s centerfielder Jackson Duffy off Belmont reliever/catcher Cal Christofori tied the score at 4.
And a single off Belmont’s righthander Max Meier by third base/reliever Brennan Quigley brought home catcher Alex Kennedy in the bottom of the 10th saw Braintree walk off with a dramatic 5-4 victory at Brockton’s Campanelli Stadium Wednesday night, June 7.
Before the ninth inning, everything appeared to have fallen into place for the Marauders to upend the Division 1 powerhouse. Just as it had done in the first game of the double-elimination playoffs for the elite eight baseball teams in the state against number 1 ranked St. John’s of Shrewsbury, Belmont kept the game close into the late innings against the Wamps.
For the second straight game, Belmont’s junior southpaw Nate Espelin started and kept the Marauders in the game through five innings. Espelin got out of tight spots in the first – bases loaded with one out – and second innings with a pair of strikeouts in each frame.
Braintree finally caught up to Espelin in the third on a sacrifice fly to grab a 1-0 lead.
Braintree’s pitcher Jack Andrews needed some good fielding plays to keep the game scoreless for the Marauders.
Espelin left the game with one out in the fifth with a man on second, giving the ball to his fellow junior Meier so escaped a bases-loaded predicament in the sixth. Belmont’s best shot at scoring came in the top of the 7th with Meier and Ryan Noone on second and third with one out. But Andrews got a strikeout and a ground out to end the threat.
Tailing 1-0 in the top of the eighth inning, Belmont finally broke into the scoring column. Left fielder Connor Dacey singled, shortstop Steve Rizzuto sacrificed, and Christofori earned a walk.
After cleanup batter first base Dennis Crowley drew a free pass, an exhausted Andrews left to be replaced by Quigley who got Meier to strikeout after 11 pitches.
Controversy soon erupted when pitch hitter Noah Riley was hit by a pitch, sending Dacey home. The Wamps players and coaches felt that Riley leaned into the pitch, but to no avail. Then an error by Braintree third base saw Christofori waltz in to give Belmont a 2-1 lead.
But Braintree nearly scored in the bottom of the inning as Meier hit two batters and walked the third. In came Christofori who struck out a pair and saw Kennedy hit a deep drive that sent right fielder Paul Ramsey to the wall for the third out.
And when Crowley and Meier stroke back-to-back RBI singles in the top of the ninth, Belmont had a three-run lead, 4-1, ending the last of the 9th.
But a dream season which saw Belmont come from behind to take its first Middlesex League title in more than a quarter century and be selected to participate in the top playoff tournament in the state came to an end sooner than anyone wanted it.