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.