Belmont Girls’ Hoops Ups Record To 7-2 With Defensive Gem Over Reading, 52-42

Photo: Belmont High’s sophomore Cortney Howell in action against the Reading Rockets

Belmont High Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Shantell Jeter could only shrug when asked about her team’s what has become all to familar start to a game. After scoring the first basket via senior captain Sophie McDevitt, the Marauders were bombarded by a young Reading High squad with three threes and a long two to find themselves down, 11-2, after two minutes.

“We often have slower starts,” said Jeter who is in her first year at the helm of the Marauders. “We’ve been talking about the importance of having faster starts” noting that the team needed more possession “and go harder at the other team.”

Belmont High Senior Co-Capt. Sophie McDevitt gets inside

That “being harder” is exactly what the Marauders did for the remainder of the game, holding the Rockets (4-3) to a total of six points over the middle two quarters while making enough of a scoring run to come off the court with a 52-42 victory, pushing up its record to 7-2. Belmont’s two losses were to undefeated Winchester and top-ten Newton North (7-1)

”Everyone contributed today. Everyone was hustling. We had people diving on the floor which is what we love,” said Jeter. “We had the girls getting in there wrapping up the ball every time someone held it.”

After an early timeout, the Marauders start to right the ship with a hard nose, man-to-man defense – demonstrated by a monster block by sophomore Cortney Howell of an attempted three – that cut the lead to 18-11 at the end of the first quarter.

For the next two quarters, Belmont’s team defense was the star, as it bodied up to the Rocket players, winning nearly every defensive rebounding opportunity – thanks to Howell, sophomore Symone Jackson and junior Julia Herlihy – and just frustrating each offensive venture Reading had Friday.

On the break with Belmont High first year Sophia McClendon vs. the Reading High Rockets

“They’re playing better defense together every time,” Jeter said.

The defensive stand was needed as Belmont continues to make questionable shot selections for long portions of the game. While keeping the Rockets to six points, the Marauders scored 23 in the middle quarters (leading 23-21 at the half and 34-24 after three), led by sophomore Linda Sheng with eight and first year Sophia McClandon at five.

The final eight minutes turned into a grinding affair with every Reading scoring run answered by the Marauders including a killer 3 from McClandon – who tied Sheng with 9 points to lead the Marauders in the game – at the 5:36 mark to give Belmont a 10 point lead, 38-28. Junior Mia Ferrari buried six consecutive from the charity stripe, scoring six of the final eight points to finish off the game.

Next up for the Marauders will be at 6-1 Wakefield away on Tuesday and away at winless Arlington Friday.

Late Minute Tie Vs Top Ten Reading Has Belmont Field Hockey Prepped For Playoffs

Photo: Belmont Lola Rocci (No. 4) reacts to scoring the tying goal vs. Reading

More than a half century ago just a few miles to the east along the Charles River, a spunky Harvard football 11 scored 16 points in the final 42 seconds against a top 20 ranked Yale squad to tie the contest, which the Harvard Crimson would proclaim in its headline: “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29.”

While Belmont High Field Hockey’s tying tally against 8th-ranked Reading on Friday, Oct. 14 at Harris Field came with six minutes remaining in the game and there was no league title on the line, the “victory” was just important as the Marauders ability to take charge of the game, dominating the final two quarters over the one-loss Rockets, demonstrated a team ready for the Division 1 tournament which starts in three weeks.

With just under seven minutes remaining and with a penalty corner, Belmont’s Lola Rocci sent a Alex Townsend’s pass by Reading’s goalkeeper into the back of the net, sparking a joyous celebration after the squad spent nearly 50 minutes chasing a goal to knot things up.

With the tie, Belmont currently stands at 8-4-1 with four games remaining with an MIAA power rating of 13th in Division 1, which will secure a home game in the first round of 32 in the playoffs.

For longtime Marauders Head Coach Jess Smith, the game against the type of team waiting for them in the playoffs.

“Everything is coming together at the right time,” said Smith. “The kids are playing so well together. They know their roles and they’re working hard all the time.”

The Marauders took the game to the Rockets as they had a big advantage in 50/50 chances where both players have an equal opportunity to possess the ball. Arlington got off to a solid start as Ava Goodwin scored on the SpyPonders’ first shot at goal at 10:22 in the first quarter. Most of the first half was a battle for the midfield as Belmont took advantage of its speed and stick work to have a slight advantage on the pitch.

The SpyPonders started the second half on the front foot missing a pair of shots to the far post and forced goal keep Julia Herilihy to reject an in-close attempt in the initial five minutes. But soon the Marauders’ midfield of Rocci, MacKenzie Clark, Tess Desantos and Layne Doherty stamped their mark on the game and controlled the flow of the match.

While Arlington was able to have a sniff at goal, the Marauders would have the better chances including a shot by attack Carly Gaziano that slipped by goalie Myles Lakin and heading to the net until the SpyPonder keep dove and swept it out of danger. But Belmont would not be denied the point when Belmont’s press earned the penalty corner that resulted in Rocci’s equalizer.

“We’ve been working on moving to the ball at every single practice and it’s really sticking to the girls. I mean, if you watch [Rocci] out there, she digs for every single ball and she’s getting it every single time,” said Smith. “They’re all workhorses.”

One of the players is center back Townsend who both anchored the defensive and recorded the assist on Rocci’s goal.

“I think I think the team is feeling good about themselves. A tie against Reading, for us, is a victory for sure. That means we’re kind of in with the big dogs. So, it’s amazing. It’s really amazing,” she said.

Belmont’s next game is Tuesday, Oct. 18 away at Arlington away before coming home on Thursday vs. Woburn. The final week of the season finds Belmont in an important away match with Lexington on Monday, Oct. 24 and the finale at home welcoming the Grey Ghosts of Westford Academy on Thursday, Oct. 27.

“I just hope that we can keep the momentum going and the games that we won the first time and kind of just keep the fire that we had on the field tonight,” said Smith.

Boys Hoops Shut Down Rockets In Playoff Opener, Billerica Next On Friday [Video]

Photo: Mac Annus at the line vs Reading.

Belmont Boys’ Hoops began its campaign to repeat as sectional champions with an emphatic victory over Middlesex Liberty rival Reading Memorial High, 87-45, in the first round match up of the Division 2 North playoffs.

“We had a great week of practice and we played a good game on offense and defense,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Adam Pritchard.

With its victory, third seed Belmont will host 6th ranked Billerica Memorial High School on Friday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. after the team from Billerica defeated Somerville, 66-47.

The Marauders spread the rock around with three starters topping the 20 point mark with junior forward Preston Jackson-Stephens leading the way with 25 points followed by senior Mac Annus and junior Tim Minicozzi each with 21 points.

Belmont raced off to a 11-2 lead midway through the first quarter from the outside coming from threes from Minicozzi, Annus and sophomore center Kevin Logan who started the game.

Reading didn’t panic and through senior captain Taylor Marchant crept back to within five, 18-13. at the end of the quarter.

But Belmont broke out in the second quarter as Jackson-Stephens got of the snide with nine points as the junior was targeted when the Rockets began moving from under the basket to defend against Belmont outside scoring. Belmont’s solid defense and “push, push, push” transition gave the Marauders the open looks that gave them a 35-18 half time lead with Annus leading the way with 14 points including three 3s.

Reading started the second half going with a quicker but smaller lineup to spark the offense but that only allowed Belmont to dominate under the boards and allowed them to run the Rockets off the court, scoring 33 points and putting the game to bed finishing the third up 68-35.

Belmont Girls Hoops Grind By Watertown, Reading As Playoff Berth A Win Away

Photo: Kiki being Kiki: Belmont’s Christofori playing her game.

Belmont High Girls’ Basketball secured a vital pair of home victories putting them a game away from securing a return trip to the Division 2 North sectional playoffs.

But the wins over arch rival Watertown and always tough Reading were throughly grind-them-out affairs in which the Marauders found a fourth quarter savior who secured the victories.

Against the Raiders on Tuesday, Jan. 28, sophomore Nina Minicozzi came off a four point first half to score 14 in the second – nine of those in the fourth – to give the Marauders the needed offensive punch to pull away from their cross border challengers, 54-34.

After falling behind 7-6 after the first quarter, Belmont’s Sophie McDevitt put the team on her shoulders as the first year became a target down low for her team mates cutting in the lane, scoring three hoops from in close. And given the chance, the sister of Belmont’s starting center Emma McDevitt buried a three as she hit for 10 of her career high 14 in the second quarter to give the Marauders a 23-14 lead at the half.

Belmont welcomed Reading to the Wenner Field House for a Friday night tussle that saw a pair of big quarters for both teams. After a close first quarter (15-11 Belmont), the Marauders pulled ahead 23-16 with three minutes remaining. That’s when the Rockets took off going on a 10-1 run behind sophomore guard Jackie Malley who knocked down six-for-six from the charity stripe to go along with a 3-pointer to give Reading the half time lead, 26-24.

The third quarter resembled an alley brawl as both team’s defenses were physical and uncompromising to anyone attempting a shot within 10 feet of the basket. Two free throws from junior Kiki Christofori (tied with Malley for game high 15 points) with 35 seconds remaining closed the gap to one, 36-35, only for Reading to hit a three and a follow up with zilch on the clock to give them their biggest lead of the game, 41-35, entering the final eight minutes.

The fourth was Belmont’s as its pressure defense shut down the Rockets. Reese Shapazian’s NBA-distance 3 with six minutes remaining gave Belmont the lead, 42-41, and her second trey – a buzzer beater from a wild rebound from Minicozzi upped the lead to six, 48-42, with four-and-a-half left on the clock.

It was a wild last minute as Belmont saw its 51-44 lead to a single possession, 54-51 with 10 seconds remaining when sophomore Sarah Dullaghan (five points including a behind the head layup and a three pointer) the smallest Marauder, blocked a desperation three to effectively end the game.

Belmont will take on streaky Wakefield (7-9 but with victories over Burlington, Wilmington and Arlington) as they begin the final two weeks of league play.

Belmont Girls Hoops Beat Back Reading With Strong 4th; Boys’ Quiet Rockets Early

Photo: Maiya Bergdorf scored 7 of her 11 points in the fourth quarter.

Since the beginning of the season, Belmont High Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Melissa Hart had been waiting for her team to face a “tough” contest.

“I want to see just how good we really are,” she said.

Hart got her wish granted on Friday, Jan. 3 when the undefeated Marauders found itself down by eight, 20-12, after the first quarter against an energized one-loss Reading Memorial High squad playing before its fans.

“Reading’s a good team,” said Hart. “They work hard, they’re really tenaciously defensively and that makes them tough. They made us pay for mistakes, that’s for sure.”

Belmont remains unbeaten (7-0, 5-0 in the league) and is ranked in the top ten by both the Boston Globe (5th) and Boston Herald (3rd). On Tuesday, Jan. 8, the Marauders will host a strong Melrose team sporting a 6-1 record, only losing a close one to Tewksbury. Tip off is 6 p.m.

After going back and forth with the Rockets for three quarters, Belmont mounted a 10-0 run midway through the fourth, as the Marauders’ strength, height (out rebounding the Rockets by more than two-to-one) and ability to contest Reading’s shots proved the difference as Belmont came away with a ten point victory, 55-45.

“We just weren’t near the basket in the first half and we wanted to get close to take advantage of things,” said Hart.

Spearheading Belmont’s win were sophomore Maiya Bergdorf and senior Jane Mahon who stepped up during the game. Mahon, who finished with a team-high 14 points, hit first of her first six shots, each mid-range jumpers, then went four for four from the charity stripe in the fourth.

“Sure in the beginning, we lost the tempo because we’ve been playing teams that haven’t challenged us as much as Reading and we’re playing at their pace,” said Mahon. “In the second half, we said let’s play like Belmont.”

It took Bergdorf a while to get on track, before dominating the fourth quarter by taking the ball straight to the hoop, scoring seven of her 11 points in the final stanza.

“I was getting frustrated because my shot wasn’t falling. But they didn’t have much height so if I hustled into the paint, I’d have a scoring opportunity. And if I missed I’d have rebounds,” said Bergdorf.  

“She stepped up. She’s a player and doesn’t like to lose,” said Hart of her sophomore scorer.

It was also an advantageous time for Belmont that Reading’s league MVP-candidate Haley Lightbody had her first below par game on offense this season. While a threat on defense and one of two Rockets who battled Belmont under the boards, Lightbody struggled in the forecourt, making two baskets – both 3s – and going a dreadful 3 for 15 from the free-throw line (0 for 5 in the critical fourth quarter) for nine points, more than half of her season average.

After Belmont opened the game leading 6-1 (including two blocks), it was bombs away for Reading as they hit five three-pointers, a pair each by junior guard Celia Capone and freshman guard Jacqueline Malley, to take a 20-12 lead into the second.

Belmont came out in the second quarter and pressed the ball away from the basket more aggressively as the Rockets – whose tallest player is 5’8″ – could not solve the issue of Belmont’s ability to place four players near or greater than six-feet on the floor.

“We started our zone press and that helped and we stopped turning the ball over,” said Hart.

After Reading built their largest lead of the game, 27-18, midway through the quarter, Belmont began its comeback with a three from freshman Bridgette Martin (3 points). Mahon continued her hot hand, knocking down two baskets while freshman guard Nina Minicozzi (11 points) and senior Megan Tan (10 points) were able to drive and score with Tan scoring a hoop at the buzzer to cut the deficit to two, 27-25, at the half.

Belmont came out blazing in the third, a free throw by senior center captain Jess Giorgio, a layup by Tan and a three from Minicozzi gave Belmont the lead at 31-27 two minutes into the third. But the hosts came back highlighted by its quick defense and a three from Capone to lead 37-35 with a minute to play. But an inside basket by Giorgio and Bergdorf’s putback of a rebound with five seconds remaining gave Belmont a tenuous two-point lead, 39-37.

Hart started the fourth with her freshmen guard pairing of Minicozzi and Martin to run the show with Bergdorf wanting the ball. She was promptly fouled and hit 1 of 2 as did Minicozzi before Bergdorf was fouled as she hit a power drive and made the foul shot for an old-school three giving Belmont at 43-37 after two and half minutes. Another drive by the defense by the sophomore forward/guard, the first two of Mahon’s made free throws followed by Minicozzi baseline layup built the Marauders’ lead to ten, 49-39, midway in the fourth with the Rockets sensing the contest was over. Reading cut the lead to six with just under a minute remaining but it was a little too late for a comeback. 

For Mahon, the team’s success last year – a trip to the Division 1 North sectional finals – and the perfect start so far has placed a target on the team for other squads to take aim at.

“We came into the year with this expectation for us to fulfill what the past seniors left behind. People will be out for us so we have to remember to keep pushing ourselves every day,” said Mahon.

Belmont Boys Rocket Past Reading Early, Than … Meh

The Belmont High Boys team ran away and hid from host Reading – they were up 19-4 after the first quarter and 42-18 at the half – in the second game of the girls/boys doubleheader at Reading on Friday, Jan. 4.

But it soon became apparent that both teams would play the second half with the focus and intensity of a Sunday morning suburban dads league match. It could have been the knowledge that Belmont was cruising to another win (7-0 and ranked 8th by the Boston Globe), that it was already past 8 p.m. on a Friday night or that New Year’s was earlier in the week; for whatever the reason, the play deteriorated into lots of one-on-one match ups and sloppy play. Even the fans appeared ready to head home early.

Belmont’s sophomore guard Tim Minicozzi lead the Marauders with 14 points, several driving through traffic to the hoop while back court mate senior captain Danny Yardemian hit for 13 points with several Rockets following his every move as the teams got to the finish with Belmont ahead, 62-45.

Belmont Boys’ Hockey Hit By Rockets; Girls’ Hockey’s Unhappy New Year

Photo: Belmont’s Alec Moran (6) stopped by Reading’s Matt Coughlin on Saturday’s game.

Boys’ Hockey

After an inspiring 4-3 victory over perennial powerhouse Winchester midweek, Belmont High hockey was anxious to meet another tough Middlesex League opponent in Reading Memorial High which came to the “Skip” for a Saturday afternoon matinee looking up at the Marauders in the league standings.

But the intensity and breaks came from the Rockets bench – which included seven coaches – as Reading handed Belmont its second loss of the season with a 4-1 victory on Jan. 13.

Reading produced the most chances through the game with Belmont goalie Kevin Dacey required to make a series of difficult saves throughout the game while the Marauders offense which has been led by senior winger Steve Rizzuto – who scored his third hattrick of the season against Winchester – was stifled by Reading’s Matt Coughlin in net with 21 saves and a crew of big and mobile defenders.

Reading dictated the game’s pace and direction scoring early through junior forward Mike Tobin (who is a verbal commit in lacrosse to UMass-Amherst) just a minute in. Belmont came close to knotting the game from its top line of Connor Dacey, Will Dominiconi and Rizzuto who kept Coughlin busy.

The Rockets (7-2) doubled its lead even earlier in the second period than the first, after only 45 seconds with Tobin earning the brace from an excellent pass from Jake Emery. With less than five minutes remaining in the second Reading broke through again, with senior Dan Cranitch beating Dacey on a rising wrist shot glove side. 

Belmont’s best chances came down three as the Marauders dominated the remainder of the period but did not have anything to show for it at the end of two. 

An up and down third culminated in an open net by Matt Florenza with 20 seconds left. Belmont did spoil Coughlin’s away shutout as Tim Bailey took a Dennis Crowley pass and beat the goalie just before the buzzer. After some debate, the goal was allowed for the 4-1 final.

Belmont is 5-2-3 entering its Martin Luther King Day match with Catholic Memorial. (Late edit: Belmont earns a hard-earned tie with CM with a goal from, who else, Steve Rizzuto.)

Girls perfect 2017 leads to imperfect 2018 

Belmont High Girls Hockey was on fire in the first part of the season, specifically in 2017 when it rushed off to a 6-0-0 record with a high powered scoring offense, averaging four goals a game, with a bend but not break defense

But when the calendar changed to 2018, what was ablaze was extinguished as the Marauders are 0-4 for ’18. While some of the reason is the top quality match-ups – including meeting the defending state champions and the top-ranked team this season – two defeats came on consecutive Saturdays where Belmont could not hold onto late leads away from home. 

Not that Belmont has lost its scoring touch as the team is averaging three goals per game, but rather it would appear to be an inability to sustain a team confidence it held earlier in games.

Belmont did perform well against both Woburn (’17 state champs) and Winchester (a top 5 team the entire season) losing 4-2 and 5-3. What has been troubling has been the Saturday Night Falls. Against Lexington, the team let go of a two-goal lead in its 4-3 loss. This past Saturday, Belmont arrived at the Burbank Ice Rink to meet a Rocket team that was on its own three-game losing streak. After a first period knotted at one, Belmont scored twice to lead 3-1 at the end of the second period.

But as with its game against the Minutemen, Belmont saw the Rockets dominate the third, scoring four unanswered goals to fall 5-3 and see its record dip to 6-4-0. Belmont will be away from “The Skip” until next month, Feb. 4, when they host Newton South. 

Allard Breaks Century Mark As Belmont Girls’ Soccer Downs Rockets, 3-0

Photo: Carey Allard of Belmont.

In her first varsity game as a freshman four years ago, Belmont High senior co-captain Carey Allard scored five goals including the game’s first four in an eight-minute stretch in the first half  and added an assist in the Marauders’ 10-0 blitz of arch-rival Watertown High School.

“She’s going to have some career if she can keep that up,” said Head Coach Paul Graham back in September 2014.

Just how good Allard would be since that hot summer morning was answered on a muggy and damp Tuesday evening, Oct. 24, when the four-year starter broke the career century point mark scoring a brace against visiting Reading High on Seniors Night as Belmont downed the Rockets, 3-0.

The two goals gave the co-captain 101 points with two games remaining in the season and upping her goals this season to 18 with seven assists.

Allard is the first Marauder to reach 100 points since Michelle (Sheehan) Henry accomplished that goal in 2006. Henry is currently in her second year as the varsity assistant coach with Graham. 

The record-breaker came midway through the second half with Belmont leading 1-0. Playing on her off side near the right sideline, Allard cut with the ball 20 meters from goal and hit a pinpoint shot into the left side of the net. 

Allard – who will be playing defense for Division 1 University of North Caroline Wilmington next fall – finished the scoring burying a penalty kick after she was pushed from behind inside the penalty area with about 10 minutes remaining in the game. 

While Tuesday’s game was the final home game of the season, Belmont’s 13-1-0 record will likely see it playing a pair of home playoff games in the Division 2 North Sectional tournament. And likely more points into Allard’s high school point tally. 

After Loss in League Opener, Belmont Football Readies for Reading Thursday

Photo: The Belmont defensive line.

Belmont High School Football Head Coach Yann Kumin will be looking for the offensive line to spring the running game as the Marauders play host to the Reading High Rockets on Thursday, Sept. 28 at 6 p.m.

The game was pushed up a day from the traditional Friday Night start due to the Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur that begins Friday at sunset.

Kumin is looking to build a balanced attack as Belmont seeks its first victory of the season after going 0-3, losing it’s Middlesex League opener last week to an improving Woburn team, 27-14.

“We were excited to run the ball and they got a little blitz happy on us and we could not take advantage of that until later in the game,” said Kumin. 

“I thought we threw the ball decently but we have to balance our offense,” he said after the Woburn game.

“Going into the Reading game, we have to be able to consistently run the ball for positive yardage” in what Kumin described as “the dirty areas” in the middle of the field. 

As with the previous two games against Milton and Framingham, Belmont’s defense was able to play competitively against strong offenses. But the Marauders’ offense in each of the three games could not find its rhythm until the final half. By then, it was attempting to climb out of a very deep hole. 

Senior running back Tyler Reynolds scored both touchdowns last week, the first a 77 yard gallop up the gut of the defense with seconds to play in the third quarter and the second a five-yard plunge with 49 seconds to play. 

Reading (2-1) is coming off its first loss of the season, a 41-21 drubbing by Lexington. For the Marauders, it will be up to keeping the ball for as much time as possible with a mix of runs and passes for the hosts to stay in the game.

“We’re excited to be meeting Reading again after last year’s game when we kept it close for most of the game there,” said Kumin.

26 Years In The Making: Belmont Baseball Captures League Title With Victory Over Reading

Photo: Belmont High’s Max Meier strikes out the final batter of the game for Belmont’s 6-4 victory over Reading.

The wait is over.

Twenty-six years since winning its last league title, Belmont High Baseball will hoist the 2017 Middlesex League Liberty Division championship banner on the wall of the Wenner Field House after the Marauders captured its first league pennant since 1991 with a hard-fought 6-4 victory over defending champions Reading Memorial High with a combination of clutch late-inning hitting and a gutsy pitching performance by the team’s lefthanded ace.

“How about that league championship?!” asked long-time Head Coach Jim Brown to his ecstatic players as the speakers blasted a new version of King Harvest’s 70’s classic “Dancing in the Moonlight.”

“You had a goal right from the beginning of the season. And you accomplished it. You made this town proud,” Brown told the players.

The team – 16-3 overall and 13-3 in the league – will end the regular season taking on one-loss Division 3 leading Lynnfield (17-1) on Friday, May 26 at 3:45 p.m. at “The Grant.” The Marauders will then finish the season hosting The Brendan Grant Tournament later in the week.

The Marauders’ secured the victory with a clutch two-out, two run rally that gave junior starter Nate Espelin the margin he needed to hold on for his sixth win with a herculean 119 pitch performance over 6 1/3 innings.

“I walked too many people, but I didn’t have to worry about striking out people because we made the defensive plays,” said the southpaw, who raised his record to 6-1.

While Espelin could not match his high teen strikeout numbers that he produced against Wilmington, Lexington and Reading the first time he faced them – a 1-0 9-inning loss – he relied on his curveball “which worked a little better today.”

On Wednesday, the Marauders’ bats were working as the top four of the order – junior leftfielder Connor Dacey, junior shortstop Steve Rizzuto, catcher Cal Christofori and junior first base Dennis Crowley – went a collective 8 for 13 with two doubles (both by Christofori) and 5 RBIs.

“I think I’ve seen the ball well lately. It’s just looking bigger and getting a good piece of it and driving it the other way [to right field],” said Crowley.

Belmont got off the mark quickly against Reading’s All-Star starter Corey DiLoreto in the first with a walk, a fielder’s choice and two singles with Crowley punching a single through the infield to bring home Rizzuto. It appeared the Marauders would increase the lead as a sacrifice fly by junior Ryan Noone sent Christofori home, but the plate umpire called the senior captain out for leaving third early.

Espelin had already thrown 40 pitches in the top of the third when he walked Reading’s Joe Bradley to bring up DiLoreto who pulverized an Espelin offering over the deepest part of the center field fence (352 feet) to give Reading its only lead of the game, 2-1. The inning ended with Rizzuto going deep in the hole to throw out the batter by half-a-step.

The Marauders swiftly recaptured the lead in the bottom of the frame, starting with Rizzuto (1-3) waiting on a slow curve to belt it between first and second for a single. Christofori (3-3 with a walk) then smashed a fastball into the gap between center and left that one-hopped the fence for a ground-rule double.

“[Christofori’s] enthusiasm and passion today rubbed off on the entire team,” said Brown. 

Crowley followed by taking a full-count pitch into center for a single, bringing in Rizzuto to tie the score. Junior right fielder/pitcher Max Meier continued the hitting onslaught with his own single to send Christofori across the plate. The Marauders’ final run of the inning came when Crowley scampered home on a Bryan Goodwin sacrifice fly, upping the lead to 4-2.

The title was sealed with two down in the sixth when Reading took out DiLoreto. Belmont quickly pounced on reliever Mike Rainone loading the bases on a Conner Dacey single and walks to Rizzuto and Christofori.

Dennis completed his big day at the plate battling back from a two-stroke deficit to rocket a 2-2 pitch into center to bring in Dacey and Rizzuto to double Belmont’s lead from two to four at 6-2.

“He got me down 0-2 on a pitch I thought was a little low. But what are you going to do? I took the next two pitches to even it up then got a pitch I liked and ripped it,” said Crowley who drove in half the team’s runs and scored once.

“This team knows what to do with the stick [bat] and are selective with their pitches. They work at it,” said Brown.

Those final runs were critical as Reading staged its own late rally in the top of the 7th. DiLoreto walked, and after a sacrifice bunt, consecutive infield errors and a Ben Fischer single that dropped in front of Goodwin saw the Rockets cut the lead in half to 6-4 with the go-ahead run at the plate.

“I was making sure [the athletic trainer] had the heart defibrillator ready because I didn’t know if I could take it,” said Brown.

With nearly 120 pitches in the book, Brown elected to pull Espelin for junior righthander Meier. With Rockets at the corner, Meier relied on his fastball to strikeout the 8 and 9 batters; the final punch out caught the batter looking.

After the celebrations which included running through a “victory tunnel” set up by the Boys’ Rugby team and a bucket of water over Brown’s head, the coach again heaped praise on his team and the eight seniors.

“This is the best group of kids I’ve coached. They know how to battle for the entire game, the entire season,” said Brown.

Belmont Baseball Host Reading Wed. With Winner Taking League Pennant

Photo: Belmont Marauders

It’s all on the line as Belmont High Baseball hosts Reading Memorial High this afternoon, Wednesday, May 24, in what is a one-game, winner takes all contest that will determine the champions of the Middlesex League Liberty Division.

Today’s dramatic finale to the 2017 league season saw Belmont receive a huge break on Tuesday, May 23, from a squad scrambling for its playoff life. Needing to win its remaining games to earn a playoff berth, the below .500 Winchester High Sachems nipped Reading, 4-3, to drop the Rockets’ record to 15-3 and 12-3 in league play.

Belmont was standing at 12-3 in the league as they defeated non-league Arlington Catholic, 5-0, on Tuesday, behind senior reliever Zach Colleran’s first career start. The righty spun a masterful performance on the mound, mixing his fastball with a changeup to go six shutout innings, giving up a pair of hits and earning three Ks. 

“I knew I wasn’t going to blow anyone away so I threw pitches that they couldn’t make solid contact,” said Colleran, who earned the win. Junior starter Max Meier got an inning of work in pitching a 1, 2, 3 7th.  

Colleran was helped by outstanding plays in the field including from shortstop Steve Rizzuto who dove to snag a grounder heading up the middle, throwing out the runner by half-a-step at first to end the sixth. 

Belmont cobbled together 3 runs in the second with Colleran helping himself with a RBI single followed by a sacrifice from first base Dennis Crowley and a RBI knock by senior catcher and captain Cal Christofori. 

Crowley scored in the 4th after ripping a double into right, stole third and scored on a fielder’s choice from Colleran. 

Junior pinch hitter Andrew Mazzone took a first pitch fastball 322 feet over the right field fence to add the final run of the game in the fifth. 

Wednesday’s game (start time 3:45 p.m.) at “The Grant” in Belmont will see not just attempt to grab its first league pennant in more than a decade against the defending champion but also giving the Marauders the opportunity to avenge a 1-0 extra inning loss earlier this month to the Rockets.

Belmont will throw its ace, junior Nate Espelin (5-1), to start. Espelin is coming off a 15 strikeout effort against Lexington and will face the team that defeated him this season.