Baseball: Belmont holds off Winnisquam in a messy matchup

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 05-23-2023 8:52 PM

BELMONT – Belmont High’s baseball season has been one of streaks: After losing the season opener, the Red Raiders won five in a row before losing four in a row. They’ve followed that up with four straight wins, the latest a 10-5 victory over Winnisquam on Monday in a game in which both teams committed five errors.

What the game lacked in precision it made up for in action. Both teams seemingly had runners on base almost every inning. Belmont stole seven bases, helping to manufacture some of the offense.

After Bears pitcher Anthony Boomer no-hit Belmont in the last matchup on May 8, the Red Raiders (9-5) jumped on the scoreboard early against Winnisquam’s Ethan Carter. The 2-0 lead after one inning became an 8-1 lead after four, paving the way for the five-run win.

Belmont’s Anakin Underhill turned in a 3-for-4 performance with a double, run scored, two RBI and two stolen bases. On the mound, starter Liam Waldron tossed four innings, allowed four hits and three runs with three walks and five strikeouts.

On his senior day, Waldron started strong but faltered later in his outing.

“I think a little bit of emotion with senior day and all that; kind of burnt himself out a little bit,” said Belmont head coach Matt LeBlanc. “He’s been our No. 1 for a couple years now, and we ride with him. I have no doubt that he’s going to continue to put in the performances that he’s been putting in all along.”

The Bears (8-7) were led at the plate by Alex Nichols (2-for-3, walk, two RBI).

Here are three notes from Monday’s contest:

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Belmont’s approach at the plate pays off: While Belmont didn’t have to stare down Winnisquam’s Boomer for a second straight time, the Red Raiders still wanted to erase that sour taste in their mouths from that previous matchup. Four batters into the bottom of the first, Belmont had already plated a run. A second soon followed that inning.

“We saw the ball, we hit the ball and put it in play a lot,” said LeBlanc. “We manufactured runs when we had to manufacture runs, just some hard-hit balls. We’re learning still, and they’re getting a little bit more aggressive when they have to be. The approach has to continue to be refined, but we’re doing a good job overall.”

Scoring some runs early in the game particularly helped take some of the pressure off against a feisty Winnisquam team.

“It’s huge against any team to get runs early,” LeBlanc said. “To be able to do that against Winnisquam, we know we’re always going to have our hands full. … They’re always ready to battle. Scoring a few runs, taking a little pressure off us, put a little pressure on them is going to go a long way.”

Alejandro Jimenez has a moment to shine: A foreign exchange student from Madrid, Jimenez had never played baseball before arriving in Belmont. In the fifth inning, he had his opportunity to get an at-bat.

He smoked the first pitch foul down the left-field line. The dugout roared as if it was game 7 of the World Series. He eventually worked a walk, stole second and came around to score, a nice cherry on top of a sweet day for Belmont.

“The fact that he got an at-bat and got on base and scored was pretty cool,” LeBlanc said. “I’m really happy for him, and he’ll get to go back to Spain with some stories.”

Locked into the No. 10 seed, Winnisquam focuses on improving defense: When Bears head coach Fred Caruso arrived at his team’s practice Sunday night, he asked a question you might not expect to hear from someone who’s in his 17th season coaching a program: “What do we do here?”

It was a joke, of course. But it was just Winnisquam’s second practice after a stretch of playing eight games in 12 days. As a result, that’s made it tricky to work on some of the defensive issues that plagued Caruso’s team on Monday evening.

“Defensively, we have to play better,” Caruso said. “(In the playoffs) we’ll have our (ace) going. Anthony Boomer can throw with the best of them in our division. Whoever we get that first round, it’s going to be a tough game for them.

“If they see a 10 seed coming in, they better be ready, but we have to play clean. Our offense isn’t built around the three-run homer or the three-run double. We have to string things together, and we have to create opportunities. If we do that, and we play good defense, then we’re good. We’ll be OK.”

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