ELLSWORTH, Maine — Pat Kelley figured to be one of the top pitchers in Eastern Maine Class B this spring, based upon his strong performances over the last two years.
Right now, at least, he’s trying to prove it an inning or two at a time.
The senior righthander, bothered by a sore arm during the offseason, came on in relief Saturday with runners on second and third and no one out in a one-run game and retired six of the seven batters he faced to help Ellsworth preserve a 4-3 Class B victory over Mount Desert Island.
“It’s a lot different,” said Kelley after his third relief appearance of the early season. “There’s a lot more pressure right when you come in.”
MDI (2-3) had closed the gap to 4-3 in the top of the sixth inning as Devon Young drew a leadoff walk from Ellsworth starter Andrew Hodge and scored thanks in part to two Ellsworth infield errors — the Eagles’ only miscues of the game.
But Kelley came on and prevented the tying run from scoring with two strikeouts around a force play at home on a grounder by pinch-hitter Ian Hodgdon to Ellsworth second baseman Garrett Kaspala.
“I was just trying to get them to hit ground balls so the defense could make the plays,” said Kelley, who still is undergoing physical therapy and hopes to return to the starting rotation soon. “Garrett made a great play to help us get out of the jam.”
Kelley finished off his first save of the spring by striking out the side in the seventh around a two-out single by Jasper Cousins as Ellsworth improved its record to 3-1.
This matchup of Hancock County rivals was tight throughout, with Ellsworth taking a 4-2 lead on back-to-back RBI singles by Mickey Manning and Jordan Carter with two outs in the bottom of the fifth.
Brad Folmer opened the inning with a walk, the third time in the game the Eagles’ leadoff batter had reached base. Folmer stole second, and soon was joined on base by Adam Kaspala, who reached on a one-out infield error.
MDI righthander Sammy Stewart got Hodge to foul out to Young, the catcher, before Manning hit a 1-2 pitch into left field to drive home Folmer with the go-ahead run.
“It was a fastball inside — base hit,” said Manning.
Carter followed with his own RBI single to left to give Ellsworth a two-run lead.
“I’ve been in a wicked slump lately,” said the Ellsworth catcher. “Pat’s been working with me to keep my back elbow up so I can come down on the ball.”
Folmer paced Ellsworth’s offense with a single, two walks, four stolen bases and three runs scored.
“I just look for my pitch,” said Folmer, “and if I get it, I’ll swing. If I don’t, I’ll look to get a walk.”
Carter added a double and a single to Ellsworth’s six-hit attack while Hodge drove home two runs with a first-inning sacrifice fly and a two-out double in the third inning.
Young doubled, singled, walked and scored all three runs for MDI. Peter Logue hit an RBI double in the second inning and an infield single for the Trojans, while No. 9 batter Gordon Falt singled twice.
And Dennis O’Neil added an RBI double that tied the game at 2-2 in the fourth, but Hodge then got Chris Gridley to hit into an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play with the bases loaded.
Hodge earned the pitching win, allowing two earned runs on seven hits while striking out three batters and walking three in five-plus innings.
Stewart absorbed a tough-luck, complete-game loss as he struck out three and walked three while yielding just two earned runs.