BANGOR, Maine — After watching Bangor pitcher Jordan Clarke baffle his batters with his curveball earlier this season, Mt. Blue baseball coach Craig Collins felt like he was watching a replay from the Cougars’ dugout Wednesday.
Clarke actually used all three of his pitches effectively while allowing four hits and combining with Darren Casey-Covell for Bangor’s 7-0 shutout of the Cougars from Farmington on a warm and partly sunny afternoon at Mansfield Stadium.
“It was just like the first time we faced him,” said Mt. Blue coach Craig Collins. “His breaking ball’s unreal and we just didn’t hit it today. He kept us off balance.”
Meanwhile, Bangor’s batters were jumping on Cougars starter Tim Smith early, scoring a run in the first and three more in the second on five hits.
“We haven’t seen a lot of lefties this year, but we still wanted to be aggressive and jump on him for a couple runs early,” said Rams right fielder Ryan Larochelle, who helped lead Bangor’s 11-hit parade with two RBI singles. “He pitched me outside all day so I went the other way.”
Larochelle’s approach is typical of these 10-2 Rams, who aren’t looking for a home run.
“This is the first Bangor team I’ve seen in 10 years you don’t have to worry about the long ball with,” Collins said. “But they take what you give them.”
What the 6-6 Cougars gave them Wednesday was two unearned runs on two hits and three walks. Bangor added that to 11 singles with an end result of 17 baserunners.
“We don’t really have the same kind of team we’ve had in the past where we can score six or seven runs in an inning,” said Rams coach Jeff Fahey. “We kind of manufacture runs and make things happen.”
The first run came courtesy of three singles, the last one an RBI shot by Nate Lewis with two outs in the first, but the next three exemplified Fahey’s manufacturing process.
Kyle Savage drew a leadoff walk in the second and went to second on Dylan Morris’ single. Chad Kelley bunted them over before Savage scored on Lonnie Hackett’s sacrifice fly to center, and Larochelle followed a Cody McInnis walk with an RBI single to left. Morris then scored on a wild pitch.
“They played well defensively and we gave them too many free bases or extra outs,” Collins said.
The rocky start clearly flustered Smith, but he settled down and struck out the side in the third before escaping a runners-at-the-corners jam in the fourth and allowing one unearned run in the fifth on a hit and an error.
Clarke (3-1) was comfortable on the mound from the outset.
“Lately, our pitching hasn’t given up many hits,” Fahey said. “That’s our second shutout in the last three games and we’ve only given up five hits.”
Clarke struck out nine batters and walked just one.
“All three of my pitches — fastball, curveball, and cutter — were working well for me. I could throw any of them any time in the count. Beginning of the game, it was more speed that worked best for me and then later on it was location.”