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Still a work in progress, WHS baseball edges Carthage

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Watertown High School’s young baseball team found out Saturday that taking care of the little things can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Despite committing several mental mistakes, especially on the bases, the Cyclones came through when it counted to edge Carthage, 4-3, in the first game of the Cyclone Booster Club Tournament at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

That also counted as a Frontier League “A’’ Division game in what was a battle for first place.

In the championship game, however, WHS (7-3 overall, 5-0 league) was guilty of a few more critical mental lapses resulting in a 12-9 loss.

Coach Matt Covey said he hopes his club, which has just four seniors on the roster that also includes a freshman and two sophomores, will learn from the mistakes.

“We’ve had so many easy games in the league, we haven’t needed to make a play on defense or running the bases or at the plate with the game on the line,’’ Covey said. “But as I told the kids, you have to do things the right way no matter what the score.’’

WHS had won its first four league games by a combined 68-5 margin. But both games Saturday came down to the final inning, which Covey said was good for his club moving forward.

“You don’t learn a whole lot winning by 10 or 15 runs,’’ he said. “It’s games like these where you find the difference between making a play at the right time and not being able to execute when you have to.’’

Senior catcher Josh Belch had the big blow for WHS in the opener.

With his team trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the fifth, and a runner on first base, Belch lofted a deep fly down the right-field line that eluded Carthage right fielder Matt Draper. Killian LaDue, who had singled, scored easily and Belch kept running hard all the way to third. When the Comets misplayed the relay, Belch sprinted home for a two-run, inside-the-park home run.

“I figured it was at least a triple, but then I heard coach Covey say pause,’’ said Belch, who also singled in his first at-bat. “Then he waived me home and I ran as hard as I could.’’

Junior Christian Jorden, who pitched six strong innings to earn the win, then delivered the winning blow an inning later. Steve Hatchell walked with two out, Collin Jorden reached on an infield single and Christian Jorden, batting ninth, singled sharply to left to produce the go-ahead run.

Sophomore Jared Bellinger then got the Comets in order in the top of the seventh to preserve the win.

“The younger kids have really surprised me how they’ve adapted so quickly to the varsity level,’’ Belch said. “We are way ahead of where I thought we would be at this point of the season. Now the sky’s the limit.’’

However, WHS also had two runners thrown out at home, failed to execute a key sacrifice bunt and overthrew the cutoff man a few times as well.

Carthage, which fell to 6-1 in the league, has also been a big surprise.

Joe Sech’s club finished just 2-8 in the league, 5-14 overall last season.

“We’re kind of in uncharted territory,’’ he said. “It’s a very scrappy team that plays the game the right way. Our pitchers have thrown strikes for the most part, and we’ve got just enough hits to win close games.’’

Junior Andrew Smith was the tough-luck loser on the mound, allowing just seven hits. Cody Spencer and Dylan James contributed RBI singles for the Comets.

Camden, which beat Massena 6-3 in eight innings in the other semifinal at Jefferson Community College, overcame an early 2-0 deficit by scoring five runs in the fourth and four more in the sixth to earn the tournament title.

Kade Spencer recorded three doubles and drove in four runs for the Blue Devils (2-5).

WHS managed 13 hits, but also stranded nine runners and saw two more runners doubled off base.

Belch went 4-for-4 for WHS with two RBIs, Ryan Bajjaly finished 2-for-5 and Kenny Schimpf was 2-for-4.

MASSENA 19, CARTHAGE 3

The Red Raiders scored 13 runs in the bottom of the second inning en route to a five-inning consolation game win over the Comets at JCC.

Isaiah Dillabough went 3-for-3 for Massena (3-4).

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