State run comes to a close for Belmont 12s

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

Belmont 12U All-Star center fielder Nate Sottak gets a lead off first base following a walk in the first inning of his team's 2-1 loss to Claremont in the Cal Ripken State Tournament last week in Lancaster. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
July 14, 2014
LANCASTER Until the very last out, the Belmont 12U All-Stars battled. But with Claremont on its heels and the tying run just 60 feet away, the summer run finally came to a close for the red and white.

Claremont held on for dear life with the tying and winning runs in scoring position in the bottom of the sixth, as relief pitcher Henry Bourque got a pair of strikeouts looking to close out a 2-1 victory over Belmont on July 7 in an elimination game of the Cal Ripken 12U State Tournament at Colonel Town Community Field.

"We fought to the very end," said Belmont skipper Brett Sottak. "Even in that last inning, down 2-0, we had the top of the order up and I still felt like we were going to win the game."

It was the third year in a row at the state tournament for Belmont, with the team's best finish coming back in 2012 (third place). After a first round loss to Suncook Valley two days earlier dropped the squad into an elimination game, the stakes went up against Claremont.

"We've been here before, I just told the kids to go out and play ball," said Sottak. "We hung in all day."

Thanks to a standout pitching performance from Cam Magerer, Belmont stayed right with Claremont. Magerer didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning, as he matched Claremont pitcher Trey Theriault pitch for pitch during the early innings. But Claremont finally broke through in the top of the fifth, as an RBI double from Joe Bicknell drove in Keegan McAllister to make it 1-0. Bicknell would come around to make it 2-0 when he took third on a wild pitch and scored on an error.

Theriault looked like he would make that 2-0 lead stand up throughout, as he carried the shutout into the bottom of the sixth. With one out though, Nate Sottak and Austin Garrett worked back to back walks, chasing Theriault (nine strikeouts, four walks) from the game. Magerer came through against Bourque, as he roped an RBI single to the gap for his third hit of the day, plating Sottak to make it 2-1.

Garrett took third on the play, and Magerer moved up to second after a stolen base to put the tying and winning runs in scoring position with one out. But Bourque settled in, taking advantage of a generous strike zone that was big for both sides all night long, and he got back to back Ks to close out the win and send Claremont into the next round.

"We didn't swing the bats very well, we just didn't do a great job at adjusting to the strike zone," admitted Sottak.

Magerer took the hard-luck loss on the mound, as he went all six innings for Belmont. The right-hander struck out eight and didn't walk a single batter while allowing five hits and two runs (one earned).

"He's just a baseball player," lauded Sottak of Magerer. "He's tough, he just gets it. He played middle school ball, (Concord) Cannons and Cal Ripken this year I bet he's played 70 or 80 games. He locates his pitches well and took advantage of the strike zone. And (catcher) Zack (Gilbert) did a great job catching Cam."

Magerer had three of his team's five hits on the day, including a double in the fourth inning. Gilbert and Garrett also added singles for Belmont. The team stranded seven runners on base, including two in both the first and sixth innings.

"This was a great experience," said Sottak. "I've coached a lot of teams and this was by far the best coaching experience I've ever had. We have nine kids aging out so there's going to be a lot of big shoes to fill for next year. We played 11 tough innings of baseball in this tournament, minus the one inning where we fell apart against Suncook (12 runs in the sixth inning)."

Belmont's defense was lights out in the loss to Claremont, especially during the early going. Nick Sperduto made a diving catch in right field to rob a Claremont hitter of a base hit, while the left side of the infield in Garrett (shortstop) and Aaron Simonds (third base) combined for seven putouts.

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