SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Trailing by one run and heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, Columbia High School loaded the bases with no outs but could not capitalize on the chance as they fell to Belleville, 6-5, at Cameron Field on Thursday night.
The Buccaneers were facing defeat, down by two runs entering the seventh inning, but Anthony Lantigua led off with a double to start a three-run rally for his team. John Castro tied the ballgame with a bases-loaded single later in the inning to revive his team. A wild pitch gave Belleville what became the winning run, but the Cougars limited the damage with solid defensive play.
"They're a good-hitting team," Cougars head coach Joe Fischetti said. "They're aggressive, they go with the pitch well and they wait on the curveball."
In the bottom half of the inning, a walk by Ryan Murphy, a single by Quinn Krais and a failed fielder's choice by Eric Lax loaded the bases for the Cougars. Pete Nolet smoked a line drive down the right field line to potentially win the game, but it dropped just inches to the right of the foul line, and Belleville's pitcher Wilbert Then settled down, struck out Nolet and retired the next two batters to seal the victory.
"We loaded the bases in the final inning and we have to find a way to score a run," Fischetti said. "It is what it is. We had to find a way to score but we just didn't."
Lax broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning when a controversial call by the umpire delayed play. Lax belted a line drive into the right field gap and the ball traveled toward some bushes, but the umpire said that because he was able to find and play the ball, after searching for it, then it must be considered a playable ball. Lax circled the basepaths with Krais ahead of him and awaited the home run call to be made.
Junior left-hander Jesse Evans was on the mound for Columbia and tossed five innings of three-run ball to go along with three strikeouts and three walks.
"He battled," Fischetti said. "He had control, he had his curveball...he had everything tonight. He pitched his best game of the year."
The Cougars fall to 2-9 on the season after picking up their second win of the year with a 4-3 victory against Glen Ridge on Wednesday.
Columbia will play two games on Saturday. The first will be on the road against Harrison and then the Cougars will return home for the first round of the Greater Newark Tournament at 4 p.m.
The reporter is a student participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.