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 Girls’ Basketball Puts Up A Pair of Wins to Reach 6-3

After consecutive road losses to powerhouse teams in the Middlesex League, the Belmont High School Girls’ Basketball team last week reeled off a pair of victories to see its record jump to 6-3 overall and 5-3 in the league. 

On Thursday, Jan. 15, Belmont outscored an undermanned Waltham High School team 28-10 in the third quarter to sail by the Hawks, 67-49, at Wenner Field House. 

Tied 28-28, the Marauders’ used its quickness and ball hawking skills on defense to tire the nine-man Waltham squad, sparked by freshman point guard Carly Christofori who in a final three minutes of the third put on a one-woman show, pouring in 8 of her 12 points, stealing the ball on back-to-back plays, rebounding and caused two fouls to be committed against her aggressive play.

On one play in the sequence, Christofori ran down an errant pass and lunged to keep the ball inbounds and then scored on the subsequent foul.

“I was just trying to help the team by playing hard,” said Christofori. 

Playing her best game of the season on both ends of the court, senior center Linda Herlihy put in 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and 3 block shots while junior guard/forward Irini Nikolaidis hit for a career high 19 points, going 9 for 11 from the charity strip.

On the next night, the Marauders’ got by a one-win Winchester High team, 47-32, in a game an assistant coach of Head Coach Melissa Hart described as “one that you are not going to write home about.”

The quick turnover saw Belmont struggle to get any rhyme or reason to either the offense (no player hit double digits in scoring as Herlihy threw in 9 for the team lead) and defense for the night. It took the insertion of junior guard Samari Winklaar to lift the team’s defensive presence while scoring some much needed outside shots (4 of her 5 points in the quarter) to propel the team to a 10 point lead (24-14) at the half.

“I go in and do what ever [Hart] asks me to do; that was shooting and play strong on defense,” said Winklaar, who said she is becoming more comfortable with her teammates “as I get to know how they play and where they are [on the court.]”

With the game in hand after the Marauders scored 15 points in the third quarter while holding the Sachems to 7, Belmont was able to empty the bench, allowing several players significant minutes on the court. And out there, junior Sara Lyons put in a runner in the paint for 2 points, junior Ani Maroyan stroked a three from the outside, sophomore Mary Kate Egan battled for her 2 points and freshman Gretta Propp hit a jumper and three free throws before leaving the game with a lower-leg condition.