Big sixth leads Belmont baseball past Winnisquam



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Belmont starting pitcher Bobby Cozzens releases a pitch during the Red Raiders win over Winnisquam. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
April 25, 2011
BELMONT After surrendering an early lead, it appeared as though the Belmont High School baseball team might drop its fourth consecutive game to start the season on April 22.

Not so fast.

The host Red Raiders scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to turn a 5-5 game into a 10-5 win as Belmont earned its first win of the year against defending Class M champion Winnisquam Regional High School.

"I've got to give Belmont a lot of credit, they hit the ball really well," said Winnisquam manager Fred Caruso. "It seemed every ball they hit found a hole. They didn't hit anything right at us so they did a good job at the plate."

With the score tied at five heading to the bottom of the sixth, Belmont's Ian Shaw and Kaleb Brace led off with singles from the 8-9 spots of the order. Leadoff hitter Chris Brace followed with a grounder in the hole that was booted for an error and Shaw scored the go ahead run for a 6-5 Raiders lead.

"Shaw leads off and he gets that hit and that's big for him," said Belmont skipper Matt LeBlanc. "So happy for him to rip that hit and get us started. Then successively, just one after another, we get on base."

Taylor Morrill followed with an RBI single and Austin Wilder drove a double off the center field fence to plate another and give Belmont an 8-5 advantage. Bobby Cozzens registered an RBI single through the drawn in Winnisquam infield and Bret Spaulding capped off the inning with an RBI double as the Raiders totaled six of their 15 hits in the frame to take the 10-5 lead.

"To come out and put five runs on the board at that point is huge, absolutely huge," LeBlanc said.

The Winnisquam defense also committed two key errors in the inning, and they finished with four miscues on the afternoon.

"We're still a work in progress and we made four or five more errors today," said Caruso. "They add up. Instead of stopping the sixth and stemming the tide, you give up five runs instead of one or two and it makes it that much tougher to come back."

Belmont reliever Jake Bryant closed it out in the seventh, as he earned the win in his first varsity pitching duty after Cozzens pitched the first 4 2/3 innings. Bryant struck out three and walked just one batter as he allowed one hit in his 2 1/3 innings on the hill.

"You've got Bobby starting the game, and he gave us 4 2/3 so then you bring Jake in and it's the first time he's every pitched in a varsity game," explained LeBlanc. "And he doesn't throw particularly hard but he throws strikes and strikes are the name of the game."

The Bears struggled at the plate, as they had just five hits on the day with Bryan Wadleigh (2-for-3) and Trevor Chapin (2-for-4) leading the way.

"Their pitchers did a nice job and we were a little impatient at the plate I thought," said Caruso. "We're still waiting for our offense to kick in. I've gotta be honest with you, I'm surprised at that. Especially the middle of our lineup, we thought that part would take off this year with everyone back. It's tough but we just gotta keep working hard."

Belmont jumped ahead 3-0 in the bottom of the first, as Chris Brace, PJ Stamas, Cozzens, Bryant and Spaulding all had hits in the attack.

"Going ahead like that meant everything," LeBlanc said. "We've played down in every game we've played in so far. We came out and scored three quick runs so it was, 'here we go boys, let's keep this thing going.' And they did. We got flat a little in the middle of the game offensively but they came back. It could've been easy for these guys to give up when you haven't won a game, it could've been very easy but they didn't and they fought to the end."

Chapin took the loss on the mound for the Bears, as he came on in relief of starter Kyle Pratt.

"We're working hard in practice, doing everything right, but we just haven't been able to carry that over to a game consistently yet," said Caruso, as his squad fell to 2-2 with the loss.

The teams are scheduled to meet again in Tilton on May 13.

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