BREWER, Maine — Pat McEwen has been searching all spring for a consistent second pitch.
The Brewer righthander finally rediscovered it on Senior Night, pitching a four-hit shutout as the Witches defeated Hampden Academy 6-0 in a Class A baseball game at Heddericg Field on Friday.
That second pitch was a curveball, which he successfully mixed with his fastball to stymie the Broncos on just 80 pitches — including 54 strikes.
“For Pat this is huge,” said Brewer coach Dana Corey. “He’s been working without his best stuff and trying to get his curveball in place. Tonight he just started to gain confidence in it. He could throw it on any count, and once he gets that going it makes him a lot stronger.”
McEwen struck out four batters and walked one during a performance he credited in part to extra bullpen sessions this week that included assistance from Brewer American Legion coach Chris Morris.
“I haven’t been able to find that release point to really snap it off,” said McEwen. “More likely it looks like a slider the way I’ve been throwing it, but tonight I got that 12-to-6 snap to it because of the extra help I’ve had in the bullpen sessions.
“That’s probably the best I’ve ever thrown a curveball right there.”
McEwen was backed by an errorless defense that featured senior third baseman Eric White, who flagged down a couple of hard-hit shots by Hampden, turning one into a 5-4-3 double play that is relatively rare in the high school ranks.
“We hit the ball hard tonight,” said Corey, “but I’ll give credit to Hampden, they hit the ball hard, too. They backed up Whitey a couple of times, but he’s got such quick hands from being a [hockey] goalie, that definitely benefits him.”
McEwen faced only one threat, that in the top of the second when Hampden’s Alex Cust pulled a leadoff triple to the right-center field gap. But Cust was stranded at third as McEwen retired the next two batters before Cust was cut down at home when a wild pitch caromed off the brick backstop right to catcher Nick Moore, who raced back to the plate in time to apply the tag.
“All I did was throw strikes,” said McEwen, “The defense made all the plays and my catcher blocked anything I threw and that all just led to me being more confident.”
The win keeps 11-4 Brewer ranked fourth in Eastern A as the Witches battle No. 5 Lewiston for home-field advantage in an expected regional quarterfinal between the teams on June 10.
Hampden dips to 6-9.
Brewer managed just four hits off Hampden righthander Cody Miller, but three came consecutively during a four-run first-inning rally and the fourth was a two-out, two-run single by Blake Birmingham in the bottom of the sixth.
“We got some key hits tonight,” said Corey. “We’ve had to scramble for runs, we’ve got them on balks, we’ve got them on steals, we’ve got them on sacrifice bunts and we’ve got them on errors, but when you start getting the key hits it’s more of a confidence builder.”
Birmingham was hit by a pitch to open the Brewer first, then Brandon Gendreau singled to left. White followed with an RBI single to right before Jordan Richards grounded a single through the shortstop hole to drive home Gendreau.
After Tyler Desjardins walked, Moore hit a sacrifice fly to center to score White, and Jordan Smith added a sacrifice fly to right to plate Richards with Brewer’s fourth run.
Miller then held Brewer hitless until Birmingham followed sixth-inning walks to Moore and Colby Small by hitting a 2-2 pitch into left field to provide the Witches two extra runs.