Senior Ian Shaw got the Belmont season off on the right foot on April 9, as the righty pitched a complete game shutout in a 4-0 win over Gilford. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
April 16, 2012GILFORD – It had all the elements of a classic pitching duel on April 9.
Behind senior ace Ian Shaw, the Belmont High School baseball team had just enough offensive firepower to pull out a 4-0 win over rival Gilford High School in the Division III opener for both teams.
Shaw went all seven innings on the hill for the Red Raiders, striking out five and walking just one while allowing eight hits on the afternoon.
"I'll tell you what, you've got to give Gilford a lot of credit," admitted BHS skipper Matt LeBlanc. "They were knocking on the door all day long. They couldn't push that run through but they were knocking, knocking, knocking. So I was very happy that Shaw was able to get out of that, he did a great job."
Not to be outdone, Gilford starting pitcher Sean Callinan was also on top of his game. The right-hander pitched a complete game as well, striking out nine and allowing just three hits. Callinan issued seven walks on the day, with just two of his four runs being earned.
"He was outstanding…nothing short of outstanding," said Gilford coach Matt Finch of Callinan. "He's got to cut down on the walks, especially late. But he came back strong, he was tough and had good defense behind him pretty much all day. Sean's going to be a big part of this team all season and I think he'll go strong for us all year long."
The game was scoreless into the bottom of the third inning, when the Golden Eagles loaded the bases with no one out thanks to back-to-back hits from Max DesMarais and Gunnar Stecher and a walk to Callinan. With his back against the wall, Shaw dug in on the mound and took it upon himself to get the Raiders out of the jam. The senior struck out Gilford's next three batters, charging off the mound to a round of high-fives on a called third strike to end the frame.
"I've had Ian Shaw on my team for years now through the system, this is our fourth year together," said LeBlanc. "I've never seen him so fired up after an inning than I saw him there. That meant a lot to him. He willed himself to throw strikes."
The Red Raiders carried that momentum through to the offensive end, and the visitors finally broke through in the fifth inning. While Callinan retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced on the day, Belmont grabbed a 2-0 lead in the fifth when Shaw reached on an RBI fielders' choice and Kaleb Brace followed with a run-scoring sacrifice fly.
Belmont tacked on two more in the sixth, as Angelo Palmer scored on a wild pitch and Garrett Gilbert singled and scored on a Jason Taylor RBI base hit to make it 4-0.
"We were able to minimize any damage and keep them off the board while we struggled to get the bats going a little bit," said LeBlanc. "It was huge to get that first run, turn it into two real quick. It doesn't matter how you get them, they all count. We were able to manufacture some runs, which is a good sign. When the bats do come around, it just means more runs and opportunities for runs."
On the other end, the Gilford offense put two runners or more on in each of the first three innings but failed to scratch the scoreboard. DesMarais led off the fifth with a double but was stranded, bases with no outs in the third, Gilford had just one runner reach second base the rest of the game.
"There was a feeling definitely that one hit there would've opened it up," said Finch of the third inning. "We had runners on all day. It just came down to us having to get one clutch hit. Credit to their pitcher, he made us earn everything we got. I can't imagine next time out though we're not going to do better."
DesMarais had three hits for Gilford from the two-hole in the lineup, while Sykie and Stecher each added two in the loss.
"We have a fairly young team," explained Finch. "This is the first varsity experience for a number of our guys, even some of our juniors played JV as sophomores last year. I think just the mental approach, getting up to the plate looking for that first pitch to drive, is a learning experience. We're a young team and a young program. That'll be the worse we look in that situation all season."
LeBlanc was impressed with both pitchers, noting the unlikelihood of both starters opening the season with sharp outings.
"(Callinan) played great," the Belmont skipper said. "He was pounding the strike zone early. The kid pitched a real nice game. This early in the season, getting complete games from both pitchers is pretty rare. We had Shaw on a pitch count and his last pitch of the game was the last pitch on his count so that worked out nicely for us."
The teams meet for the second and final time this season in Belmont on April 30.