NEWPORT–When a team is mired in a one win season they need someone or something to rally around.
For the North Country baseball team, that someone is pitcher Joel Lemarche.
Nicknamed "Sheldon" for his resemblance to the character played by Emmy award winning actor Jim Parsons on CBS' The Big Bang Theory, Lemarche came out and threw a masterful eight inning game for a shorthanded Falcon team on Monday against Champlain Valley.
Even though North Country lost the game 6-4 Lemarche's performance was topic of conversation after the game.
"It was a heck of a job," mused Tyler Sanville.
Said coach Brian Bonvechio about his hurler, "Sheldon goes out there and battles. He makes quality pitches, moving the ball up and down, in and out, changes speed and he got guys to miss the ball just enough to get easy fly balls today."
"He did an amazing job. To go out there and go eight innings is incredible," Jon Boyer added.
Said the pitcher himself, "My change up was above average, my fastball was pretty good and I didn't allow too many walks."
Lemarche was quick to praise his teammates who played well behind him.
"Today was a good game because everybody played well defensively."
On the field Joel got his underdog Falcons off to a good start against what many believe to be the number one team in the state, retiring the side in order.
As the Falcons came to bat one could almost feel something interesting was afoot.
Dan Decelles struck out to begin the frame, but Tyler Sanville followed him with a double. Nate Stewart kept the train moving with a single, and Wyatt Prue drove in Sanville with a base hit. Jason Hatin singled and the bases were loaded.
Boyer reached on fielders’ choice as the Redhawks went home with the ball to prevent Stewart from scoring and Trevor Monty then hit into another fielders’ choice, but for the first time in a long time the Falcons were playing with the lead.
"Getting ahead early really helped us," said Lemarche, "We got some momentum and kept it going for a really long time."
Lemarche kept CVU off balance for the next three innings with an assortment of off-speed pitches.
On the other side the Redhawks’ pitcher Dylan "Iceman" Ireland (apparently this game was a battle of the nicknames) shook off the first and matched Lemarche’s efforts.
In the fifth CVU finally got to Dr. Cooper for two runs. The Iceman helped his own cause, getting on base with a single. Brendan Davitt reached as well and Tucker Kohlasch brought both players home with a base knock.
Ireland held the Falcons off the board in the fifth and took a 3-1 lead when Andrew Nick went bridge in the sixth.
North Country came storming back in the home half of the sixth, giving the fans in attendance, including a mysterious character wearing a bag on his head, a reason to get out of their seats and cheer their hearts out.
But it wasn't easy.
With two outs and nobody on Prue singled. Hatin doubled in Prue, bringing the go-ahead run in the form of Boyer to the plate.
Ireland came to the set, delivered, and Jon smashed the ball deep to center field and over the fence for a two run bomb, melting the Iceman in the process.
"I was just concentrating on getting a hit. The ball was kind of outside and I took a full swing and saw the ball go over (the fence) and then it was full airplane mode," Boyer said about his two-run blast.
"Before he came up I said to myself that the best thing that could happen is if Jon hit a home run right now. Jon has some tremendous power when he tries to drive the ball back up the middle, and that is what he did," said Bonvechio.
Ryan Fleming came on in relief and eventually got the final out, but it was 4-3 North Country heading into the seventh.
The Redhawks weren't quite done yet as an unearned run, Davitt, came home after a ball ate up Monty at second.
It could have been worse but Jacob Barry made a spectacular two out catch in right field, nearly falling head over heels over the fence in the process.
Nothing was doing in the bottom of the seventh and Lemarche and the Falcons headed to extra frames.
With one out and the bases juiced, CVU went for the suicide squeeze and Davis Mikell came home. As Stewart threw the ball to try to get the runner going to second Curt Echo tried to come in and score as well.
The ball got back to Stewart in plenty of time, and it appeared that he had control of it long enough for the tag to count, but in the collision Echo cleated Nate and the ball came loose.
Upon hearing the call, the Falcon faithful let the home plate umpire know exactly how they felt about the situation.
One fan even offered to let the official take a look at the play on instant replay, but the ump declined the invitation.
As it turns out it did not matter in the end as Fleming, despite giving up a hit to the much abused Stewart (his hand clearly bothering him as he swung the bat), managed to get a double play and a put-out to end the game.
The loss is not the story here. Yes North Country lost, but more importantly they won some much needed confidence with their performance.
Said Bonvechio. "The effort all the way around was there and the kids played well. It was our best all-around effort, it is just too bad we couldn't come away with the win.
"This is the third came in a row that we have hit the ball hard, so that is a good sign, and if we get good pitching from Wyatt, hopefully we can get the win (against Spaulding).
On a quick scheduling note, yesterday's game against Spaulding will be made up today as 1-10 North Country welcomes in the Tide at