April 24, 2013

HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: 3rd inning key to win for Eagles

By Travis Lazarczyk tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

OAKLAND — For the Messalonskee High School baseball team, the third inning of Wednesday’s game against Skowhegan will be remembered for what didn’t happen. The Eagles didn’t let the Indians pull away when they had the chance, and then the Eagles didn’t squander opportunities of their own.

Skowhegan managed one run in the top of the third inning, but left the bases loaded. In the bottom of the inning, Messalonskee overcame a base running gaffe and scored four runs. That was enough to take the lead for good, and the Eagles left with a 5-3 win.

Senior Patrick Breton threw a complete game to earn the win, and got stronger after getting out of the third-inning jam. Breton gave up seven hits through the first three innings, but allowed just three hits over the final four innings, including a bunt single.

“That was the difference in the game. It really was. I think it helps, with the experience of P-Man (Breton) on the mound, where’s been in those situations. He knew if he just did his job, he’d be able to get it done,” said Messalonskee coach Ray Bernier, whose team improves to 3-1. “Patrick’s strength is to keep (the ball) down. He usually gets a lot of ground ball outs. That first stretch, he wasn’t, and they were staying up. He was able to adjust and get it down.”

Skowhegan (2-2) opened the third inning with a Trevor Hisler single and Chase Nelson double. Kam Nelson singled to score Hisler for a 2-0 lead, and after a sacrifice bunt by Adam Clukey, Kaleb Brown walked to load the bases. Breton worked out the jam with a strikeout and a fielder’s choice to shortstop Jared Cunningham.

“That was a huge, huge opportunity for us right there. Breton, he’s got our number,” Skowhegan coach Rick York said. “He pitches well. He moves the ball around. He keeps us off balance. He was mixing speeds and hitting spots, and I think our pitch selection was a little bad.”

In the bottom of the third, Messlaonksee’s Trevor Gettig led off with a single and went to third on Jake Dexter’s double. Cunningham hit a ground ball to short, and Dexter took off to third, not realizing Gettig was still there. After getting the out at first, though, the Indians were late going after Dexter, who was able to scamper back to second base.

That set up Zach Mathieu to tie the game. In the first inning, Mathieu hit the ball to deep left field for a long out, and he was expecting Skowhegan pitcher Chad Carroll to continue throwing him breaking pitches.

“They were throwing me curveballs basically the whole entire game,” Mathieu said. “So, it came down to a 3-2 count, and I knew it was coming, because (Carroll) wasn’t afraid to throw it. I just got down on it, waited for it, and ripped it between third and shortstop. That started the game for us, and we ended up with the win.”

Mathieu’s single tied the game at 2-2, and after Devin Warren reached on an error, Ben Frazee singled to give the Eagles a 4-2 lead.

“There was a couple plays there you can’t practice, and that hurt us. Not burying them or getting two or three more in the first couple innings, we let them hang around, and you can’t let this team hand around, because they can hit,” York said.

In the top of the seventh inning, Mathieu started the defensive play of the game. Clukey led off with a single to left field, but was gunned down trying to stretch it into a double. Mathieu got the ball quickly in to Cunningham, who made a perfect relay throw to Dexter covering second base.

“We’ve been practicing here a little bit, and I know left field is very wet, and I know how it plays,” Mathieu said. “Once the kid hit it, I knew it wasn’t going to roll far. I knew he was going to go to second, and I just threw it to the cut (Cunningham) as fast as I could, and we got the out.”

Warren scored on a wild pitch in the fifth inning to push Messalonskee’s lead to 5-2. In the top of the sixth, Hisler (3 for 3) singled to score John Swett, cutting Messalonskee’s lead to two runs.

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