Cole Contigiani gives bat boy Bronson Taylor a lift after homering in the third inning of Belmont’s game with Exeter July 10 in Claremont. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
July 16, 2012CLAREMONT — Before taking on the Belmont All-Stars in the Cal Ripken 12U state tournament on Tuesday, July 10, one person with the Exeter team freely admitted to the Belmont coaches that he had no idea where Belmont was.
Chances are, that was a pretty common occurrence over the course of the Belmont squad's run through the state tournament, as the program came out of nowhere in its very first season of Cal Ripken Baseball to win the District Six title and then won its first two games in the state tournament, held at Monadnock Park in Claremont.
But now, it's a safe bet that most folks in the state Cal Ripken program have a pretty good idea where Belmont is.
"They have close to 300 kids to choose from," assistant coach Chuck Taylor said of the Exeter program. "And we had to find a 12th person just to have a team."
In the end, the powerful Exeter squad was just too much, using one big inning to take an 8-3 win over Belmont.
While Taylor hoped that his team could put its first loss in tournament play behind him, he knew it wasn't easy.
"The key is to keep their heads up," Taylor said.
The Belmont team went through the entire District Six tournament and the first two games of the state tournament without a loss, so Taylor knew it was going to be tough to convince the kids to push through it after the first loss.
"They have to let it go and learn from the mistakes," he said.
Out of the gate, the two teams appeared quite evenly matched, as both teams had runners on base in the first two innings, but neither team could score.
Brett Lima got the start on the hill for Belmont and pitched a perfect first inning, while his Exeter counterpart did the same, striking out the top three hitters in Belmont's order.
Exeter got a base hit in the second inning, but a nice play by shortstop Colby Brown helped get Belmont out of the inning with no runs scoring.
Cole Contigiani led off the bottom of the second with a base hit and Tanner Woods drew a walk, but both were stranded on base.
However, the top of the third proved to be Belmont's undoing.
The first batter was hit by a pitch and after a grounder back to the mound, an error and a walk loaded the bases.
Lima struck out the next batter, but another walk forced home a run and a base hit, compounded by an error, pushed Exeter to a 4-0 lead. A hit and a walk loaded the bases again and a grand slam over the center field fence upped Exeter's lead to 8-0.
"That one inning took us out of it mentally," Taylor said. "But when we start throwing it around, we keep throwing it around."
Belmont did bounce back quite nicely in the bottom of the third. With two outs, Brown beat out an infield hit and a walk to Lima put two runners on. Contigiani then blasted a shot over the fence in center, cutting the lead to 8-3.
Contigiani then took over on the hill in the top of the fourth, getting a nice play from Lima at first base to help him stay out of trouble. He did retire the final five batters he faced, but on the other side of things, Belmont couldn't put anything together. A base hit by Caleb Duggan in the bottom of the fifth was Belmont's lone base runner in the final three innings and Exeter took the 8-3 win.
Belmont returned to the field the next day to take on host Claremont, dropping a 13-5 decision, ending their tournament run.
"Take that one inning out of it (Exeter game) and it's a 3-0 game, it's a different ballgame," Taylor said. "I think we can beat anybody in this tournament."
The Belmont roster included Caleb Duggan, Colby Brown, Brett Lima, Cole Contigiani, Miles Defosses, Tanner Woods, Mark Forgione, Mikey Sprague, Alex Giammarino and Matt Thurber. The team is coached by Chris Brown and assistants John Thurber and Chuck Taylor. Bronson Taylor is the team's bat boy.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 569-3126