Baseball: Josh Misiaszek, Belchertown open with 12-1 win over Northampton

Jeff Roberson

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 04-01-2024 8:17 PM

BELCHERTOWN — After trading a run with Northampton in the first inning, Belchertown pitcher Josh Misiaszek got out of a small jam in the top of the second with back-to-back strikeouts and gave his team some juice headed into the dugout.

The Orioles wasted no time breaking the game open in the bottom half of the frame, exploding for seven of their dozen unanswered runs and earning them a 12-1 win over the Blue Devils in five innings on opening day on their home field Monday afternoon.

Going down 1-0 early didn’t faze Belchertown one bit, and once it smelled blood, there was no holding back.

“We always talk about putting the nail in the coffin and really try to get teams to lose their will,” Orioles head coach Evan Berneche said. “We don’t wanna do things to just get ahead, we wanna do things to get way ahead. That’s kind of our philosophy. Once we’re up, the pedal goes down and we’re all gas.”

Misiaszek stole the show on Monday. Following the first inning, where he gave up an RBI single to Northampton’s Matthew Walko, Misiaszek was lights out. The junior – who’s been starting on varsity for three years – didn’t surrender another hit or run the rest of the way, recording two strikeouts in four of his five innings pitched.

He fanned 10 batters on one hit and three walks while adding an RBI single at the plate in the second inning.

Three of Misiaszek’s first five batters faced found their way on board, but then he settled in and dominated. Berneche knows how good Misiaszek can be when he doesn’t try to do too much on the mound.

“He pounds the zone and has good off-speed,” Berneche said. “The biggest thing for him is trying to get him to not over-do it. He wants to gas everyone up and throw fastballs and get his velocity up. But when he’s in a groove, he’s probably one of the top pitchers in the region. This is his third year pitching on varsity, so he’s got it down.”

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At the plate, Belchertown simply did what every coach dreams of: put good swings on the ball and put it in play.

Leading the charge was Ian McDonald, as he reached base in all three of his at-bats en route to a two-double, two-RBI day while adding a walk. He scored each of the three times he got on. Derek Gould chipped in a couple of singles of his own, driving in two runs and scoring another. Jake Waller and Luke Giguere joined Misiaszek as the other three players to record a hit in Belchertown’s win.

Ryan Gould and Giguere tallied RBIs and Evan Ferguson scored two runs as well.

“We’re always preaching just put the ball in play hard, and we did that a couple times today,” Berneche said. “We had some seeing-eye singles, some balls in between guys, but then we had our share of hard hits. We had three or four doubles today. The top four or five guys in our lineup can do anything offensively, and then the bottom guys are really good at the things they’re asked to do.”

Despite the loss, Northampton head coach Andrew Serio saw plenty of positives to take away from Monday’s contest.

The Blue Devils have a very young team from top to bottom, and due to the cold and rainy weather of late, they haven’t been practicing outside a whole lot this year. As weeks pass through April, Serio expects Northampton to improve quite a bit the more his team gets to compete with one another.

“We’re a young core, and I think we can build a lot from this,” Serio said. “This is only our second week out on the field, so it’s still kind of a learning curve and work in progress. I think we made some adjustments as the game went on that I think we can learn from and improve on in the practice field and also in games moving forward.”

Walko’s first-inning single – which gave the Blue Devils a quick 1-0 lead – checked off two boxes for him in his first varsity start.

“That was Matthew Walko’s first varsity hit and first high school RBI, so it was definitely a nice tidbit for him,” Serio said. “It was good to get on the board early. We were competing with them at the start, we just couldn’t sustain it.”

And as the game went on, Northampton played better and better. It may not have shown up on the scoreboard, but the Blue Devils saw improvements – Jamie Fowler’s diving play at shortstop to save a run and both Asher Garretson and Aiden Zera putting forth promising performances on the bump, for example.

“Both of our pitchers threw a lot of strikes and attacked the zone early,” Serio said. “We had a couple good plays in the field, Jamie Fowler made a nice play on a ball that could’ve gone to the outfield but he made the play at first. As the game went on, we improved. We started to make those routine plays.”

Northampton (0-1) hosts Chicopee in its home opener Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 p.m.

This season, Belchertown is competing in the Valley Central after being a member of the Suburban League East for the past several seasons. Berneche, now in his fourth year coaching the Orioles, noticed his team perhaps wasn’t getting as much recognition state-rankings wise as he thought it deserved.

So, he jumped at the chance to move Belchertown into a stronger league, now competing against Agawam, Chicopee Comp, Holyoke and Chicopee.

“I’m excited for this year,” Berneche said. “We wanna compete with the Valley teams, and I think we can. That was my plan when I came here – to put a premier product out there on the field. The other teams we were playing in our league were good, but it wasn’t doing anything for our power rankings. So when we got the opportunity to jump to the Valley League, I took it. It’s only gonna make us better when we get into the playoffs.”

Belchertown (1-0) travels to Minnechaug on Friday for a 3:15 p.m. game with the Falcons.