Sports: Belmont Baseball Ran Off By Danvers in Playoffs

Photo: “Crossing the line” Cole Bartels.

Belmont High’s Senior Cole Bartels’ final pitch of his high school career was a fastball that overpowered the batter, forcing a lazy infield pop-up for the third out of the fifth inning.

It was appropriate that one of the most dominating pitchers in school history – and that includes the likes of major leaguer Wilbur Woods – would end his playing days on gutsy performance (coming just three days after throwing 100 pitches against Beverly) in the quarterfinals of the MIAA Division 2 North Sectionals against host and number-one seed Danvers High on Monday afternoon, June 6.

But while Bartels – who earlier in the day was named a Boston Globe Spring All-Scholastic for the second year – and reliever junior Cal Christofori would give up only four hits with Bartels striking out eight Falcons with his fastball, curve/slider combo, it was Danvers’ aggressive and opportunistic running on the base paths and the Marauders inability to put together hits in a timely manner that saw  Belmont fall, 4-1, to Danvers.

“Same old, same old, it’s deja vu,” said Head Coach Jim Brown, having lost to Danvers for the third time in five years in the quarterfinals.

“We outhit them, but they make the plays on the field, a couple of miscues on our part. They take the extra bases, and they love to bunt,” he said.

“It’s a tough way to lose, but that’s why they’re 18-2 every year and going to the semi-finals every year,” said Brown. 

For Bartels, the last game of this stellar high school career – two-time Middlesex League MVP and Boston Globe All-Scholastic – should have ended on a better note. 

“That was real tough. Nothing seemed to go our way here. We fought really hard and got a bunch of hits but they didn’t come in the right time,” said Bartels. “They’re a great team. I hate them, but they are a great team.”

“But I’m super proud of all my teammates. They fought really hard so I want to thank everyone and I’m very happy of what I’ve accomplished,” he said.

And Bartels will be missed.

“He’s the best I’ve ever had as a pitcher and player. He’s a hell of a competitor. Once in a generation,” said Brown. 


Danvers senior pitcher Andrew Olszak did not have the same outstanding control that he demonstrated in last year’s 3-1, one-hit victory over Belmont in the same quarterfinal round. But the two-time league MVP (7 hits, 3 strikeouts) did throw strikes which allowed Falcon’s to make some clutch fielding, including turning two double plays (in the first and fourth) to stuff out innings while not making an error behind Olszak.

It was when Danvers reach base that Belmont found itself flat-footed. In the second inning, Danvers runners twice moved from first to third on routine sacrifices which allowed two runs to score on the only solid hit against Bartels – a single up the middle – and a fielder’s choice.

In the third, Danvers’ right fielder Dan Lynch reached first on a walk, stole second when a Belmont infielder arrived late to take Christofori’s bullet that beat the runner, took third on a passed ball and walked home on catcher Matt Andreas’ routine grounder to first. Three runs on a single, a bunt, a steal, an error and a few fielder’s choices.

Belmont was making good contact at the plate – left fielder Connor Dacey solved Olszak going 3-3 (three singles) for the day, while second base Noah Riley sharp shot in the fourth went for naught – but could not put them together.

The Marauders got things rolling in the top of the sixth. After Christofori missed going yard by 10 feet in deepest dead center for the first out, Dacey collected his third single followed by a gap double from Bartels between left and center. Riley loaded the bases with a 3-2 walk and Paul Ramsey’s deep fly ball to left brought home pinch runner Matt Kerans.

But Danvers came back for its fourth in the sixth with a double and a two-out single from first base Zach Dillon for his second RBI.

Many Belmont players didn’t want to leave the field after a successful season (15-7), taking photos, reaching out to coaches and other players and remembering how good they were. 

Second-Half Explosion Propel Belmont Girls’ Hoops Past Danvers in Playoff Opener

A newspaper sports columnist predicted that the best opening round girl’s basketball playoff game would be between Belmont High and visiting Danvers.

And the journalist’s forecast was right on … for the first half.

Leading Danvers, 26-24, after the first 18 minutes, Belmont’s vaunted defense and the scoring prowess of one of its youngest players allowed the Marauders to outscore the Falcon’s 24-4 in the third quarter and 45-19 in the half to cruise to a 71-43 home victory to start their post-season campaign in the Div. 2 North sectionals.

“This was a good one to have. We struggled early but we showed again we can come off a bad stretch,” said Belmont High Coach Melissa Hart.

Next for fifth-seeded Belmont (15-6) is a rematch on Thursday, Feb. 26, at fourth-ranked Bedford High (14-6) which came down Route 2 as a team to see the contest Tuesday, Feb. 24, at Wenner Field House.

“I hope they saw something while they were here,” said Hart.

Despite defeating Bedford last week in a winter recess tournament, 61-49, and having identical records, Belmont was given the lower seed after losing a coin flip administered by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, which sanctions the playoffs.

Belmont was led both on the ball and scoring by 9th-grader Carly Christofori, who scored 17 points including going three for four from 3-point range. Belmont hit a season-high eight treys Tuesday.

“We just wanted to win the game for the seniors so it wouldn’t be their last game especially at home with so many fans, finally,” said the freshman, noting the Wenner was filled for the first time this year for a girls’ game.

While Belmont finished strong, the Marauders wasn’t impressing anyone, including themselves, in the first half. After going up 19-12 on Christofori’s second three of the half just after the 6 minute mark in the second quarter, the team went into the freezer, giving up open shots and becoming flustered by a young athletic Danver’s team playing good defense.

When Danver’s junior Hannah Llewellyn hit a three point shot with two and a half minutes to play in the half, the Falcons outscored the Marauders 10-0 to take a 22-19 lead.

“I think the girls were, and they actually said it, that they were nervous right before the game,” said Hart. “Our defensive intensity was not at it best for a quarter but [Danvers] earned the lead.”

Then senior center Linda Herlihy took control; in the last 90 seconds of the half putting in an offensive rebound, hitting one of two from the charity stripe after being fouled and banking a hook shot with four seconds before the buzzer to give Belmont the 26-24 halftime lead.

“At half time it was really close and we knew we should be beating this team and we took over,” said Christofori, who started the half with a pair of free throws (9 points in the third) followed by offensive rebounding by Herlihy (five of her nine rebounds were under the Belmont basket) and senior Elena Bragg to set up Christofori for yet another downtown 3 pointer to up the lead to 33-24.

And a smothering press defense – including blocks by Herlihy and forced turnovers against the Falcons – led to fast break chances which Belmont began scoring. Stepping up were junior Sarah Stewart (throwing up a three from another ZIP code) and Bragg, who scored her six points for the night in the third. By the end of the quarter, the game was effectively done.

By the end of the fourth, every Belmont player got onto the court with 10 Marauders scoring, with the team cheering as junior Meghan Ferraro put in a layup with an assist from senior Lauren Noonan and for senior Kayla Magno when she drained a three.

“Having such a strong second half gives us a ton of confidence going into the next game and that’s really important,” said Herlihy.

A Hoop ‘Sleeper’ Set to Put Opponents to Bed in Sectionals

Photo: Melissa Hart, Belmont High Girls head coach, at practice on Monday, Feb. 24.

In his preview of the MIAA state tournament, the Boston Herald’s High School Insider blogger Danny Ventura rates both the Belmont High School Boys’ and Girls’ teams as the “sleeper” teams of the MIAA Div. 2 North sectional playoffs that began Monday.

After being told her team is being described by that term, Melissa Hart, head coach of the Belmont High Girls squad, gave a quizzical look.

“I’m going to have to look up the definition of ‘sleeper team’,” said Hart as her team enters the tournament as the fifth seed and will play Danvers in the first round on Tuesday, Feb. 24.

For ESPN commentator Dick Vitale, a classic sleeper team in the NCAA tourney “is a team seeded fifth or lower in the bracket” that “are dangerous … capable of making deep runs in the big dance.” Ready for the upset, he said.

But Hart wonders if her team, which  should be considered as not as strong as the teams they are meeting in the playoffs. The Girls lost four of six games to undefeated or one loss teams and the other two times to teams in the Div. 1 playoffs.

“I mean, no one necessarily expects us to win but could?” said Hart. “No respect. That’s fine,” she added.

Hart’s team is coming off a great campaign that is sparked by a unrelenting defense and, especially in the final six games which it went 5-1, where the team’s outside shooting began falling. In fact, the possible second round game for Belmont could be a rematch against Bedford, which the Marauders beat by 12 points in a post-season tournament last week.

Despite having the same record and defeating the Buccaneers head-to-head, Belmont was made the lower seed after a coin-flip by the MIAA, preventing Belmont from hosting a second playoff game.

At practice Monday, the mood was upbeat as the girls were going through drills on specific points that Hart felt needed to “correct.”

“I think we’re a threat,” said Hart, pointing out how well balanced the team is – Hart regularly uses nine players in a game –   and a good make up of strong inside players – led by senior center Linda Herlihy and scoring leader Elena Bragg – and tough-noise guards with senior Sophia Eschenbach-Smith and freshman Carly Christofori.

“We have a good make up and that allows us to get away with having one player not having a great night. It doesn’t hurt you that much,” said Hart.

As practice ends, Hart believes being a sleeper could be an advantage in the playoffs.

“So we can be pretty dangerous when everything is working for us and it has in the past two weeks,” she said.

Sports: Volleyball Begins Playoffs at Home on Halloween Night

The Belmont High School Volleyball team hopes they’ll be the ones receiving treats rather than being tricked as the Marauders being the MIAA Div. 2 North sectional playoffs on Halloween night hosting Danvers High School at Wenner Field House.

The 15-5 Marauders are seeded 7th as they take on the 10th seed Falcons at 6 p.m., Oct. 31.

Coincidentally, the Belmont High Field Hockey team, ranked 10th, will visit Danvers, seeded 7th, on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 30.

Danvers, 12-6, is the talk of the North Shore as the varsity program started last season. During its first season, the Falcons did not win any of their 18 games in 2013. This season, under Head Coach George LeVasseu, Danvers has joined another second year program, Marblehead, on the top of the Northeastern Conference South League.