BUCKSPORT, Maine — Seven seniors strong, the Ellsworth Eagles are one of the more experienced baseball teams in Eastern Maine Class B this spring — and they’re playing like it.
Coach Dana Smith’s club pounded out 16 hits and got solid starting pitching from righthander Andrew Hodge on Tuesday afternoon to cruise past Bucksport 11-2.
The win was the sixth straight for Ellsworth since a 1-2 start, and avenges its most recent defeat, a 9-5 loss to the Golden Bucks on April 29.
“We’ve been working our way up toward this,” said Hodge. “I don’t think we’ve played our best ball yet, but I think when we put it all together we’re going to be a decent force to be reckoned with.”
Bucksport is now 7-4 after suffering its third straight loss.
Eight of Ellsworth’s nine starters had at least one one hit in the game, with Hodge leading the way with a two-run homer, double, single and three total RBIs in four-at bats.
Designated hitter Tyler Palmer added three singles, while Cote Card, Ross Saunders, Jordan Carter and Seth Cote had two hits each — and Brad Folmer added the game’s key hit, a two-out, three-run triple in the top of the fifth.
The only starter who didn’t get a hit, center fielder Andrew Austin, reached base three times and scored two runs.
“One through nine we’re feeling pretty good right now,” said Smith. “This is one of the better hitting clubs we’ve had, and that takes a lot of pressure off everything else.”
Hodge escaped a first-inning jam with just one unearned run allowed, then settled down to check Bucksport on four hits over five innings.
By the time he left, the Eagles enjoyed an 8-0 lead.
“When Hodge has his command, he’s pretty tough,” said Smith. “The first inning is always a key with him. Once he gets by that and gets loosened up he usually gets stronger.”
Hodge gave Ellsworth a 2-0 lead in the top of the first with a two-out, opposite-field homer to right off Bucksport starter Evan Eldridge.
“I didn’t think it was going to go out, but I’ve been seeing the ball well lately and I just figured if I got a good piece of it that with the wind it would go out,” said Hodge. “It was a fastball outside so I went with it.”
Bucksport got one run back in the bottom of the first when Ryan Bailey reached on an error, went to second on a sacrifice by Cody Farrell and scored on Tim Nason’s single to right.
It was all Ellsworth after that.
Austin was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on Palmer’s ground single to right in the second to give the Eagles a 3-1 lead.
Folmer then broke the game open with two out in the fifth when he belted an eye-high fastball to deep center for his bases-clearing triple.
“It was definitely high and inside,” said Folmer, “but I had an 0-2 count so I was just going to swing the bat because you’ve got to protect the plate on 0-2.”
Tyler French’s sacrifice fly drove home Bailey in the Bucksport fifth to close the gap to 6-2, but Ellsworth scored twice in each of the next two innings.
Seth Cote’s sacrifice fly and an RBI single by Palmer extended the Eagles’ lead to 8-2 in the fifth. Saunders lined a two-run homer to left in the sixth.
Ellsworth added its final run in the seventh when Dakota Jewett hit a leadoff single and scored when Hodge was hit by the pitch with the bases loaded.
“We’ve got some things to work on,” said Smith, “but I like the looks of the team right now. We’re playing with confidence.”