White Mountains earns third straight D-III softball title with 4-1 win over Belmont

  • The White Mountain softball team runs on to the field after Belmont third baseman Raven Gates strikes out to end the game at the Division III softball final at Plymouth State University on Saturday, June 9, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • White Mountain shortstop Megan Nelson (5) and second baseman Amaya Dodier collide trying to get a pop up in the 5th inning against Belmont at the Division III softball final at Plymouth State University on Saturday, June 9, 2018. The ball dropped but White Mountain went on to win 4-1. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Belmont center fielder Lizzie Fleming (4) and pitcher Juliannna Estremera after the final out as others hug at the Division III softball finals at Plymouth State University on Saturday, June 9, 2018 after they lost 4-1. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Belmont infielder Jordan Sargent slides ahead of the tag by White Mountain third baseman Kaitlyn Nelson at the Division III softball final on Saturday, June 9, 2018. Sargent went on to score the Red Raiders only run on the next play. White Mountain went on to win 4-1. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Sunday, June 10, 2018

PLYMOUTH – The No. 1 White Mountains Spartans squad was loud and energetic during warmups and introductions, but when the game started it was the No. 7 Belmont Raiders who were making noise.

Belmont (15-5) took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning and kept the undefeated Spartans on their heels, before White Mountains (20-0) ultimately silenced the Bears and won its third straight Division III championship, 4-1, at Plymouth State University’s D&M Field on Saturday.

The young Raiders were appearing in their first softball championship in school history, but played with poise and confidence early on, loading the bases in the second inning and leaving two more on base in the third, despite going down 1-2-3 in the top of the first.

Belmont led off the fourth inning with back-to-back singles from senior Jordan Sargent and junior Chantelle Martin, the Raiders’ fifth and sixth hits of the game, before the Spartans managed their first hit in the bottom of the frame.

All of this against a team that has only lost once in the last three years, has appeared in seven straight D-III finals, and had already defeated Belmont in the regular season, 5-1, to boot.

White Mountains also boasts what Belmont head coach Bill Clary referred to as “a top-two (D-III) pitcher” in Haile Hicks, who struck out 12 in a complete-game effort on Saturday.

“We didn’t lose the game, (White Mountains) won the game,” Clary said. “I was happy with how we came into this game. I was happy with how we played this game. White Mountains was on their heels. They had to fight us every inning. That’s all we could ask for.”

Hicks struck out the first two Belmont batters of the game and a fielded a groundout to close the inning, but Belmont responded with a 1-2-3 inning of its own, thanks to a diving catch on a foul pop fly by Sargent at catcher and a running catch in left field by Martin.

Freshman third basemen Raven Gates, one of three freshmen starters, Sargent and Makenzie Donovan had singles to load the bases before Hicks fanned her fifth Raider to get out of the jam, but Estremera (three strikeouts in a complete game in the circle) led Belmont to another 1-2-3 inning in the second.

White Mountains reached base for the first time on an error in the third inning and an another error, single and fielder’s choice put two runners in scoring position in the third, but the Spartans still couldn’t cross the plate, thanks to Estremera’s pitching and clutch plays from Gates, fellow freshmen Becca Fleming at second and Kelley Allen in right field, Donovan at shortstop and senior first baseman Jordyn Lavallee.

“None of our girls lost their composure,” Clary said. “That’s one of the things we instill in all the players. That’s one play. You’ve got another chance to make it up. A teammate is going to make it up for you. We didn’t lose the game on a couple of those errors.

“We only have two seniors. We start three starting freshman,” Clary added. “Two freshmen (starting) in the infield is unheard of. They held their ground. We haven’t had a JV program in five years. I’m happy with how everybody played.”

The Raiders got their run in the top of the fourth when Sargent and Martin led off with back-to-back singles. Sargent advanced to third on a steal and was driven home by freshman Kara Stephens’s fielder’s choice.

The Spartans secured the win on a three-run, fifth-inning rally, sparked by Brianna Watson’s leadoff double.

Estremera struck out the next two batters, but Maddy Bean singled to put runners at the corners and Kaitlyn Nelson hit a two-run single on the next play and advanced to third on a throwing error to give the Spartans a two-run lead. Kylee Bailey’s RBI single gave White Mountains a 3-1 lead.

Watson hit an RBI single in the sixth inning to tack on an insurance run.

Sargent led off the sixth inning by reaching base on an error and Martin walked to put two runners on with no outs, but Hicks got out of the jam with another couple strikeouts and fittingly secured the championship with her 12th strikeout in the seventh.

A single from Estremera in the top of the seventh was the only hit the Raiders could muster over the final three innings.

“We lost the game because we couldn’t manufacture runs when we had runners on,” Clary said.

The Raiders matched the Spartan bats with eight hits.

Bean (2-for-4), Nelson (2-for-4) and Watson (2-for-2, reached on an error) led White Mountains at the plate.

Seniors Sargent (2-for-2, reached on an error) and Lavallee (1-for-3, double, reached on error) were strong at the plate for Belmont.

“We’re losing a lot of leadership in (Sargent),” Clary said. “She’s been a leader on the field for five years. She played JV for us as an eighth-grader. She works hard in practice. She knows the fundamentals of this game. She knows the game. That’s Jordan Sargent ... she supports her teammates. She never gets down on them. Without even knowing it, she picks them up.”

“It feels pretty good to make history for the school,” Sargent said. “I wish we would’ve won, but we’re still really happy.”

Sargent and Clary both feel positive about the future of the Belmont softball program, and so does White Mountains coach Forrest Hicks.

“They gave us a hell of a game,” coach Hicks said. “They’re well-coached. They’ll be very good next year.”