Belmont Softball Is Back! Marauders Down Wilmington, 3-2, To Up Record To 6-4

Photo: Belmont High School senior pitcher Ellie Espelin in action against Wilmington

During a recent softball game, an opponent asked Josie Kim a question as Belmont’s outstanding junior catcher stood on second base during a Marauders rally.

“When did you guys get so good?” quire the player.

Many people have been asking that same question this season since Belmont has been wandering in the wilderness for the past 15 years, bereft of a winning record and coming off a lonely two-win season last year.

But with the team playing at its brand-new ballpark and with the right mix of veterans and newcomers, this season’s Marauder team is no longer an automatic “W” on other teams’ schedules as it has been in the past decade.

“We have no star players, but we work as a team. We are underrated because we were so bad for such a long time,” said Kim,

On Friday, April 26, all the elements of the new era came together as the Marauders produced a program-defining victory, holding off perennial Middlesex Freedom leaders Wilmington, 3-2, at Clay Pit Pond Park (the “Pond”). The victory over the Wildcats moves the Marauders to 6-4 midway through the season.

The last time Belmont processed a winning record and earned a playoff spot was in 2008 when the 11-9 Marauders was anchored by strikeout artist Kayla Hoyer (’09), who led all eastern Mass pitchers with 232 Ks.

Belmont High’s second base Eva Grant at bat vs Wilmington.

The program’s sudden turn of fortune comes from players who participate in club softball and a group of outstanding athletes with some past experience in the sport. While the Marauders have taken a huge step towards becoming a competitive squad, growing pains remain, especially against the established teams in the Middlesex League. Case in point: a recent three-game stretch, including against Lexington (18-4) and Arlington (10-0), in which Belmont was over and out-matched.

But Friday – played before dozens of parents and fans filling the backstop stands and some created their own bleachers in left field – showed the potential for finishing the season with a record above .500, and an automatic invite to the state tournament is very real. In Friday’s game, as many balls ended up in the Pond as there were total hits; the team won with its brand of timely hitting – 11 hits, including four doubles – and outstanding defense, highlighted by a pair of double plays, each ending with Kim tagging out a Wildcat at the plate.

“It was pretty much just the throw. I just sat there and caught it. And then all I had to do was go backward with the tags,” said Kim.

Kim’s battery mate, senior ace Ellie Espelin, put her stamp on the game against the Wildcats’ first-year pitcher Izzy Maiella. Belmont’s most experienced hurler picked up seven strikeouts (on nine hits and four walks), many of which got her out of jams. On Friday, the heat worked best for Espelin.

Belmont’s battery: Catcher Josie Kim and Pitcher Ellie Espelin

“I was doing fastball [and curve] and then the change-up, but the fastball was the best pitch today,” said Espelin, with Kim nodding in approval. Taking the measure of Wilmington runs in the family, as Espelin is the sister of Belmont High baseball all-star Nate Espelin, who struck out a school record 19 batters in a 1-0 complete-game shutout over the Wildcats in 2018.

“It was a long week, and I was happy that I hit my spots most of the time,” said Espelin.

Belmont got on the scoreboard first after a one-out double by first-year first base Elsie Lakin-Shultz (2 hits), who advanced to third on an Espelin single (who helped her own cause with three hits, including a double) and scored on a fielder’s choice RBI via left fielder Mia Ferrari. Wilmington rallied in the fourth to tie the game on a walk, a single, a sacrifice, and a groundout. But the Wildcat on third was stranded as Espelin struck out the next batter looking.

Belmont would jump back into the lead in the fifth, with centerfielder Amelia Ormond scoring all the way from first on a Tessa Burroso single to center. The shortstop would cross home on the next pitch when Kim (2 hits) drilled a double to the fence in left to increase the lead to 3-1. The Wildcats would push home a run in the sixth on three infield singles.

The Wildcats would not go quietly as Wilmington’s Ali McElligott launched her second triple of the game with two outs. But Espelin would shut the door by getting Eva Boudreau to swing at a 3-0 count and ground weakly for the easy 1 to 3.

While this is Espelin’s final season, Belmont has a young pitcher waiting in the wings in Olivia Ormond, who threw a four-hit shutout in her first varsity start and helped her own cause by slugging an in-the-park home run to lead the Marauders to a 16-0 victory over Cambridge Rindge and Latin on April 23.

Belmont’s Head Coach Joe Tuzzolo said, “I am impressed with the girls today. They battled the entire way. It was a tight game, and we haven’t been in that many tight games. They showed a lot of composure. We jumped to a lead and saw it disappear because Wilmington is a really good team. But our kids made the plays when it counted.”

“Since the middle of March, when we started, the kids have made great strides, and it showed today,” said Tuzzolo, who also appealed to the Belmont community.

“With the warmer weather, we’d love to see even more fans come to see us play.”

In the bleachers

Mother’s Day Flowers And Plants Sale Friday To Sunday At Lions Club

Photo: The annual sale starts Friday.

It wouldn’t be Mother’s Day without a bouquet of flowers and there’s no better – and convenient – place to find that special gift than the annual Mother’s Day Flower Sale sponsored by Friends of Belmont Softball.

Purchase beautiful flowers and blooming plants and help support the Belmont High School Varsity and Junior Varsity Softball teams.

The sale will be held at the Belmont Lions Club at the intersection of Royal Road and Common Street just past the Belmont Commuter Rail tunnel on the following dates and times:

  • Friday, May 11; 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 12; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, May 13; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Belmont Mother’s Day Flower Sale Begins Friday in the Center

Photo: Flowers for mom at the Center.

The Friends of Belmont Softball will be hosting its annual Mother’s Day Flower Sale this weekend at the Belmont Lions Club in Belmont Center. Come by to purchase beautiful flowers and support the Belmont High School Varsity and Junior Varsity Softball teams.  

The flowers will be on sale:

  • Friday, May 12: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 13, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
  • Sunday, May 14, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sports Update: Softball Earns Big Win, Baseball Rolls Along

Photo: Senior Bryan Goodwin driving in a run vs. Winchester.

After a rough start, Belmont High Softball got off the snide and earned a 9-4 home victory over Winchester High at the Concord Avenue Field on Friday, April 28. The girls are now sporting a 1-4 record but with progress coming on a daily basis under first-year coach Kristin Ciappina.

• How wet has it been? So dank that despite a day of drying, Branden Grant Field, the home of the undefeated Belmont High Baseball Marauders remained soaked requiring the game played Thursday, April 27 against Winchester to be switched to the JV/Freshman field adjacent Harris Field. The nearness to the ball field of the school’s all-purpose turf field caused a few nervous moments as about four foul balls landed into the midst of the Girls’ Lacrosse contest vs. Woburn. Yikes.

But the return to the old field did not faze the Belmont Nine as they came away with a comfortable 7-1 victory to extend the team’s opening season win streak to six games (6-0). Southpaw whiz kid Nate Espelin (2-0) pitched five strong innings, striking out nine while surrendering a double in the fourth.

Junior reliever Jake Pollock gave up an earned run in the sixth, escaping further damage by an outstanding 6-3-2 relay out as senior centerfielder Bryan Goodwin fielded a single up the middle and fired a bullet to junior first base Ryan Noone who turned and delivered a strike to senior catcher Cal Christofori to nail the runner who took off from second at the plate.

Offensively, Belmont continues to put runs on the imaginary scoreboard, seeing four runs score on four solid hits in the fourth, finishing with eight knocks led by Connor Dacey’s two leadoff doubles and a pair of runs scored. 

While liking to see the bats come alive this year, Head Coach Joe Brown is more impressed with the team’s excellent pitching.

“Our pitchers have given up five runs in six games,” observed Brown. “You’re going to win a lot of games if you do that.” 

Next up for the team will be a match of undefeateds Monday; the first of two games this season with last year’s Middlesex League champion Reading Memorial which comes into the game unbeaten at 5-0. The game is scheduled for May Day at 3:45 p.m.

From the Herald

From the Boston Herald’s MIAA Top 25 Baseball Rankings – Week Four (4/26/17)

Let’s take a look at our most recent high school baseball poll as we approach the beginning of May.

#4 Belmont High School – (5-0) – Led by Cal Christofori the Marauders are off to a hot start and look to prove to be one of the best teams in the state.

Sports: Bats Come Alive As Belmont Softball Wins Season Opener

Photo: Julia Rikin rounding the bases during her home run in the season opener vs. Waltham.

A six-run second highlighted by an inside-the-park-homerun from senior slugger Julia Rifkin and solid early season pitching from sophomore Christine MacLeod resulted in a successful opening day for Belmont High Softball as the Marauders defeated visiting Waltham High, 7-4, to start the 2016 campaign on the right foot.

Belmont’s bats took advantage of somewhat soft pitching from the Hawks’ in the second frame as Belmont batted through the line up on five hits and two walks including a team “cycle” – two singles Sofia Cellucci, Irini Nikolaidis), a double (Meghan Ferraro), triple (Lia Muckjian) and the Rifkin homer.

[Belmont split the next two games after the opening victory, losing to Stoneham 2-1 and a 6-2 win over Melrose to improve to 2-1 when they take on Wilmington at home Wednesday, April 20 at 10 a.m.]

“On the whole I think it was a great team win for our first game out,” said Stacie Marino, the team’s former head coach who was filling in for newly-installed manager (and one time Belmont High softball standout) Melissa O’Connor, who accepted the position just a few days before the start of the season but was out with an injury. 

Helping her own cause, MacLeod (1-2 with two runs) scored the final Belmont run on Ferraro’s second hit of the game (a single) in the bottom of the sixth. On the mound, MacLeod collected four strikeouts and was ahead on the count on most of the batters although a number of Waltham’s hits came with two strikes. 

“I feel that the umpire was squeezing the pitchers a little bit and it was getting into my head, but that’s all right,” said MacLeod who will be the lead arm for the Marauders this season.

“It’s the first game and I’m trying to get the kinks out. I felt good but I could have done a little bit better. But we won so that’s OK,” she said.

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Belmont Softball Finds the Going Tough Against Established Teams

Photo: Junior third base Lia Muckjian.

After a quick start to the season, the Belmont High School Softball team took on the crucible of playing the better established softball programs in the Middlesex League which, it turned out, was a bit more than this young team was able to handle.

But unlike past years, the Marauder were competitive in each of most of the games during its four-game losing streak, including a 3-2 loss to non-league visitor, Cambridge Rindge and Latin, on a cold and breezy Thursday morning, April 23.

Belmont started off quickly with junior right fielder and lead off hitter Ani Hackett coming home with the game’s first run on junior shortstop Julia Rifkin‘s ground out.

Freshman pitching standout Christine MacLeod cruised through the CRLS Div. 1 squad in the first three innings, facing the minimum nine batters. But a two-out single in the fourth scored a pair for the Falcons in the top of the fourth to put them out ahead 2-1. 

On the Belmont side of the plate, despite singles by MacLeod, junior catcher Meghan Ferraro and second base Katrina Ruzzuto, the Marauders came up empty getting those players around to score.

In the bottom of the fifth, consecutive singles by junior third base Lia Muckjian, senior captain and first baseman Lauren Noonan and MacLeod brought in Belmont’s second run as Muckjian scored. But what appeared to be Belmont’s third run when Kate Lester, running for Noonan, seemingly beat out a wild pitch was taken back as she was called out by the umpire. (see photo here)


Cambridge would retake the lead on two singles and a fielders choice and Belmont could not muster a challenge in their final at bats. 

The team is currently 3-6 with games on Friday, April 24, away at Lexington, and Monday, April 27, home vs. Winchester. 

Freshmen Lead Belmont Softball to Home Opener Win Over Stoneham

Photo: Belmont pitcher Christine MacLeod against Stoneham. 

Powered by the pitching and hitting from the team’s two freshmen, Belmont High School Softball cruised to a home opening win, defeating Stoneham High School, 13-1, in a shortened five-inning game on Monday, April 13. 

“This is a great group of girls who can pitch and play defense,” said Bob Magarian, the rookie head coach whose team record is above .500 at 2-1. 

“That’s from the old school, but you also need to score runs so you have to get the offense clicking which we did today,” he said.

Freshman starting pitcher Christine MacLeod threw her second consecutive one-run game – the first was an 18-1 beat down of hosts Watertown High School April 7 – giving up a pair of singles and two doubles while putting up five strikeouts. 

Up by a single run going into the bottom of the 4th, the Marauders scored seven times with two outs as junior third base Lia Muckjian and junior catcher and co-captain Meghan Ferraro stroking RBI  singles during the rally.

Belmont wrapped up the game in the fifth with 9th grade left fielder Kate Lester bombing a triple – one of two extra base hits for the Marauders – to score senior first base and co-captain Lauren Noonan with the first of five runs in the inning resulting in the game being called early due to the mercy rule. 

“I wasn’t really thinking. I just swung the bat and ran,” Lester said about her hit, which goes along with her double against Watertown.

“She got the big hit, hasn’t made any mistakes out in the field in three games and we like her a lot,” Magarian said of Lester. 

Softball Scores a Gift Run This Mother’s Day

Lots of bewildered last-minute gift givers facings Mother’s Day empty handed were thankful to run into a collection of Belmont High School athletes in front of the Belmont Lions Club headquarter at the MBTA commuter rail stop just outside Belmont Center this weekend.

The Friends of Belmont Softball held their annual Mother’s Day flower sale supporting the High School’s varsity and junior varsity softball teams.

Annual Mother’s Day Flowers Sale Underway Today

The Friends of Belmont Softball will be hosting their annual Mother’s Day Flower Sale at the Lions Club at the foot of the MBTA Commuter Rail station just off Common Street on Royal Road in Belmont Center.

Come by to purchase beautiful flowers and support the Belmont High School Varsity and Junior Varsity Softball teams.

The flowers will be on sale starting today, Friday, May 9 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, May 10 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, May 11, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Belmont Baseball, Softball Sweep Watertown in League Openers

The wind was howling out of the northwest Wednesday, April 9; it was not a day that a home run was going to decide the games at the softball and at Brendan Grant Field at Belmont High School as the school’s softball and baseball teams got their Middlesex League seasons underway against arch rivals Watertown High.

But the Belmont teams didn’t need the long ball as both squads saw their lead pitchers make opening day statements as the Marauders swept the visiting Raiders.

Senior co-captain Brendan Shea gave up a single run to the Raiders as his teammates made Watertown pay for some sloppy early season play to win 7-1. The southpaw, who has signed a letter of intent to play for Div. 1 UMass-Lowell next year, struck out 11 while limiting Watertown to a handful of hits.

“[Shea]’s our number one and pitched out of a couple of tight spots. He’s a gamer and that’s why he’s a scholarship player,” said Head Coach Jim Brown.

Belmont scored four runs in the first three innings on a single hit – a single by sophomore shortstop Cole Bartels –  capitalizing on four miscues by the Raiders. That was more than enough support for Shea who got out of a fifth-inning bases loaded, no out jam with a strike out and a double play created by a base-running mistake by a Watertown player.

“We did some small ball stuff but could have done a little better in our execution. That’s how we are going to win this year, with bunting players over and sac flies,” said Brown.

Over at softball, a very familiar athlete was having her way with the Raiders; senior pitcher Kendel Brown – the stellar defender on both field hockey and Girls’ ice hockey – simply kept Watertown batters off balance while the Marauders’ batters had a field day as Belmont swamped the visitors, 22-4, in a shortened five-inning game.

“We had played one non-league game before this (a 16-2 loss to Cambridge Rindge and Latin) and we weren’t ready having only been outside twice before that game,” said first-year coach Steve Price.

“But I had a good feeling coming into this game after a week of practice and we had our line up ready to go today,” he said.

On the offensive end, sophomore shortstop Julia Rifkin had an inside-the-park home run and batted strongly during each at bat as did senior Micaela McKay and sophomore Lia Muckjian had a pair of hits.

“Really, the entire line up swung the bat very well today as evident by the score,” said Price.

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