MILLINOCKET, Maine — The Stearns High School baseball team used pitching and defense to win its first 12 games this season.
Penobscot Valley of Howland used that same formula Tuesday to knock the Minutemen from the unbeaten ranks.
Dylan Worster pitched a complete game and the Howler defense came up big as PVHS upended Stearns 5-4 in a Class C battle at DiFrederico Field.
“That’s what we’ve been working on all season, just our defense and not letting people score,” said Penobscot Valley shortstop Jacob Jones, who handled seven Stearns grounders flawlessly and also helped turn one of two Howler double plays.
“That’s what got us the win today, holding a good-hitting team to just four runs.
The win avenged a 7-0 loss to Stearns on May 5, and elevated the 10-4 Howlers to fourth place in Eastern C, one spot behind Stearns.
“That’s a confidence builder for these guys because we’ve dropped some tough games this year,” said PVHS coach Ernie Gerrish. “To win this one is good for our morale.”
Worster threw 83 pitches, 61 for strikes, while striking out three batters and walking only one – the lone batter to get so much as a three-ball count against righthander.
“I started most of the batters off with a couple of curveballs to get ahead of them, then I tried to blow the fastball by them,” he said. “They put the bat on the ball, but we played great defense.”
Penobscot Valley took control with a four-run second inning before adding a crucial insurance run in the top of the sixth.
“They pitched and they played better defensively,” said Stearns coach Brandon Portwine. “They played very good fundamental baseball and didn’t walk many guys. That was the difference.”
Stearns took a 1-0 lead in the first when Garen Manzo singled to center with two outs and scored when Max Bouchard doubled to right center.
But PVHS capitalized on some wildness by Stearns starter Aaron Cyr to take the lead during its next at- bat.
Ryan Scopino hit a one-out single to left and stole second. After Logan Jipson walked, both runners advanced on a wild pitch.
Adam Callender then worked the count to 3-0 before PVHS unsuccessfully attempted a suicide squeeze that resulted in Scopino being cut down at the plate.
Callander and Wyatt Butler then drew two-out walks before Jones lined the first pitch he saw to left field for a two-run single that gave the Howlers the lead.
“I knew he was going to start me off with a fastball because he had been starting everyone out with a fastball,” said Jones. “I knew he was going to come right at me, so I went up there with the attitude that I was going to swing at the first pitch.”
David Hallett followed with a two-run single through the middle of the Stearns defense to give PVHS a 4-1 lead.
Cyr held the Howlers to just two hits over the next three innings before PVHS reached him for one final run in the sixth. Jipson led off with an infield single to shortstop, stole second and went to third on a passed ball before scoring when Jones’ popup behind the pitcher’s mound went unclaimed and fell to the ground for an infield hit.
But Stearns was not without comeback bids.
Run-scoring singles by Manzo and Alan Langley drew the Minutemen within 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth.
Stearns then pulled within a run with a two-out rally in the seventh, as Brandon Bouchard singled and went to second on PVHS’ only error before scoring on Dylan Bouchard’s single to right.
But there the comebacks ended, as Worster retired Cyr on a pop-out to Jones to end the game.