Sometimes, an unexpected loss toward the end of a great regular season is just what a championship team needs to prevent a bout of overconfidence.
In the case of Watertown High School, that certainly woke the Cyclones up and helped propel them to a huge final week at the plate and a third consecutive regular-season and playoff title.
The Cyclones wrapped up league play Thursday by pounding No. 4 Indian River, 24-6, in one Frontier League A Division semifinal at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.
Matt Coveys team then routed No. 3 Immaculate Heart Central, 13-2, in the championship game to head into next weeks Section 3 tournament with plenty of momentum.
Its something to celebrate, three in a row, Covey told his team afterward.
But the way we are playing, you shouldnt be satisfied because there are bigger goals ahead, Covey added.
Sophomore right-hander Jarrod Bellinger fired a five-hitter, striking out eight Cavaliers, as WHS (15-4) routed IHC for the second time in three days.
Bellinger also contributed two hits, including a double, and drove in two runs, while senior Ryan Bajjaly doubled and singled and drove in a pair of runs for WHS.
It took a little while for me to find my rhythm, Bellinger said. But I had good control of my curve ball, and I was still pretty strong at the end.
Bellinger pitched his first complete game of the season, throwing 103 pitches.
A week ago today, WHS saw its unbeaten league season come to an abrupt end with a stunning 5-3 home loss to Indian River.
Since then, the Cyclones have scored 78 runs and banged out 64 hits in four one-sided victories.
That defeat made us realize that if we dont play well, we can lose to anybody, Covey said.
The further you go, executing the little things becomes more important, he added. I think we now understand that and, hopefully, it will make us tougher in the sectionals.
IHC (11-6), which routed No. 2 Carthage, 21-6, in the other semifinal, actually broke through against Bellinger with a run in the top of the first inning.
Vincenzo Alteri walked to start the game, moved to second base on a groundout and scored on a WHS fielding error.
IHC starter Jake Fusilli frustrated the big WHS bats the first two innings. But his defense let him down in the third. Two Cavalier errors led to a pair of unearned runs as the Cyclones seized a 2-1 lead.
Bellinger doubled home a run and Steve Hatchells single brought home another in the WHS fourth as it took a 4-1 lead.
The Cyclones then broke the game open with a seven-run fifth in which they stroked six hits. Bellinger, Christian Jorden and Nick Lavin contributed RBI hits for WHS.
Today, we got something from almost everybody in the lineup, said Bellinger, who was on the varsity last year as a freshman. The young guys have really fit in well, and now I feel a lot better about our team than at the start of the season.
Weve swung the bat better than ever the last four games, Covey said. And Jarrod has thrown as well the last two games as he has all year.
WATERTOWN 24, INDIAN RIVER 6
Josh Belch went 3-for-4 with a grand slam, two doubles and six RBIs for WHS.
Freshman Lavin was 4-for-5 with four RBIs and Bellinger finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs for the Cyclones.
Danny Angelo recorded three hits, including a triple, for the Warriors (6-7), while Cody Davis had two doubles and Edward Malinoski two singles.
IHC 21, CARTHAGE 6
The Cavaliers banged out 26 hits en route to the upset of the No. 2 Comets at Carthage.
Jude Fusilli led the offensive barrage with three hits and six RBIs. Jake Fusilli had three hits, including a home run, as did Alteri, who drove in four runs.
Dylan James recorded two hits for Carthage (11-7).