BANGOR, Maine — There was no shortage of oddities during No. 10 Rockland High School’s 3-1, eight-inning victory over No. 7 John Bapst of Bangor in their Eastern Maine Class B preliminary game at the Winkin Baseball Complex Tuesday.
You had a .105 hitter, junior third baseman Nick Beal, collect two hits and trigger the decisive two-run, eighth-inning rally.
Rockland’s Joe Nelsen was ruled to have left third base early and was called out, negating a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
John Bapst’s Miles Gagnon had a 14-pitch at-bat including seven foul balls off 3-2 pitches. He eventually struck out.
John Bapst’s Ryan Carr was called out at first when the first base coach instinctively tried to help him up after he dove back into first.
Two Bapst runners were picked off first by Rockland catcher Nelsen.
“Baseball is a strange game,” said JB coach Shane Graham. “They took advantage of our mistakes.”
Rockland, 10-7, will now travel to take on No. 2 Ellsworth, 13-3, while John Bapst finished up 10-6-1.
In addition to the oddities, there was a terrific pitching duel between Rockland senior Nick Little and John Bapst sophomore Chris Hammond, who combined to throw an impressive 137 of 197 pitches for strikes.
Little painted the outside corner with his off-speed slider and mixed in some fastballs and curves. He allowed eight hits, all singles, with six strikeouts and one walk. He threw 107 pitches, 76 of which were strikes.
“I felt excellent. I threw my fastball, curveball and slider…mostly my slider. I showed my fastball once in a while to keep them off-balance. This was one of my best outings of the year,” said Little.
“He threw a lot of junk. He had good stuff, I guess. His curve was good. We weren’t used to seeing someone who throws all curveballs,” said John Bapst senior shortstop Casey Hull.
“His off-speed pitches had good movement. He kept the ball down. He kept us off-balance. He kept us out in front,” said Hammond, who allowed six hits while striking out four and walking one.
Hammond threw 61 strikes among his 90 pitches.
“[Hammond] had a lot of pop on his fastball and his curve had good break on it,” said Rockland sophomore shortstop Lucas Morrill.
Beal started the decisive eighth-inning rally by poking a one-out line drive single into right off an 0-2 pitch.
“It was a fastball up and away and I just put my bat on the ball and put it in play,” said Beal, who was 4-for-38 entering the game. “I was real focused today. I kept my eye on the ball and I was patient.”
Pinch-runner Jacob Perry came on for Beal and scored the winning run when Morrill belted a long opposite-field triple beyond the dive of Derek Smith just inside the left field line.
“I knew I had to get a hit there. He had thrown me a fastball on the outside corner earlier but I tried to pull it and grounded out. I went to the opposite field with that one,” said Morrill.
“I couldn’t have picked a better spot for that pitch,” said Hammond. “It was six inches off the outside corner. But he hit it. He’s a good player.”
Nelsen’s well-executed squeeze bunt on the next pitch scored Morrill.
“They got timely hits and we didn’t,” said Hull.
Little staked Rockland to a 1-0 lead in the fourth when he roped a long double to left center to score Andy Murphy, who had walked.
The Crusaders tied it in the seventh when Chase Huckestein singled, moved to second on a walk to Gagnon, went to third when Gagnon was picked off first by Nelsen and scored on Ryan Carr’s single to center.
Nelsen tripled and singled for Rockland to go with Beal’s two singles.
Nick Pooler and Carr singled twice for John Bapst.