BANGOR — Its pitching staff depleted by injury just before the start of its playoff drive, the Brewer High School baseball team simply turned to the next in line Saturday.
And Tyler Desjardins responded with a masterpiece befitting any staff ace, firing a two-hit shutout as the Witches stunned top-ranked and previously undefeated Bangor 2-0 in an Eastern Maine Class A semifinal at Mansfield Stadium.
Making just his second start of the spring, the righthander baffled a Bangor team that had averaged nine runs and 10 hits per contest during its first 17 games of the season. He worked the outside corner of the plate with his curveball, and shoulder-high fastballs proved too enticing for the Bangor batters to lay off.
“Desjardins pitched a great game,” said Bangor coach Jeff Fahey. “He threw strikes when he had to, and when he struggled a little bit he battled through, and any balls we did hit hard we hit right at people. We didn’t hit a lot, not like we usually do, but to think we were only going to get two hits is surprising.”
Not bad for a guy who never expected to get a postseason start on the mound until senior Pat McEwen suffered an ankle injury early in the week.
“I thought we could still do it,” said Desjardins, “because I felt pretty confident in my pitching. As long as I hit my first-pitch strikes and worked outside-in I would have been all set.”
No. 4 Brewer (14-4) advances to Tuesday’s 5 p.m. Eastern Maine final against No. 3 Oxford Hills of South Paris at Morton Field in Augusta. Oxford Hills (16-2) edged defending EM champion Cony of Augusta 10-9 on Saturday.
Brewer, seeking its second regional title in three years, topped Oxford Hills 3-1 at South Paris on May 12.
Desjardins struck out six batters and walked five while throwing 99 pitches. He was at his best as the game progressed, retiring eight straight during one stretch and nine of the 10 batters he faced over the final three innings — with help from third baseman Eric White. He made a diving stop to rob Kyle Savage of a single to end the sixth and then reached up to pull down a hard-hit liner by Adam King to open the Bangor seventh.
“Everything was working for him today,” said Brewer catcher Nick Moore. “I think he was getting more comfortable as the game went on. He had a couple of walks early, but he battled through it.”
Bangor advanced just two runners to third base, the first coming with two out in the third before Desjardins retired the next batter on a popup to second baseman Brandon Gendreau in shallow center field.
The Rams then put runners on first and third with one out in the fourth, but Brewer caught pinch-runner Wyatt Frost off third as King was stealing second.
“Tyler, for his first outing in a while, you can’t say enough about him,” said Brewer coach Dana Corey. “He pitched, he didn’t throw the ball. He pitched and worked himself out of some jams. No emotion out there, he just stayed stoic when he got behind, came back, worked hard and trusted his defense.”
Brewer managed just five hits of its own one day after rapping out 15 during a 12-6 quarterfinal victory against Lewiston, but the Witches generated the game’s only runs in the top of the sixth.
Gendreau grounded a leadoff single down the left-field line and went to second on a wild pitch by Savage before White received an intentional walk after working the count to 3-1.
Cleanup hitter Kyle McLain then laid down a sacrifice bunt, and Gendreau beat the throw to third by reliever Nate Lewis, leaving the bases loaded with no one out.
Jordan Richards was hit on the foot by a 1-2 curveball to force Gendreau home with the go-ahead run, and Desjardins followed with a sacrifice fly to center to drive home White and make it 2-0.
“That’s what we’ve done most of the year, good pitching and good defense, and that’s exactly what people saw today,” said Corey. “But definitely take nothing away from Bangor because that game easily could have gone either way. They had a tremendous, tremendous season.”
Savage pitched into the sixth, yielding two runs on five hits with two strikeouts and one walk.
“I thought Kyle threw one of the better games of his high school career,” said Fahey. “We just didn’t get any big hits.”
Savage and Dylan Morris had Bangor’s only hits, Savage lining a one-out single to right-center in the fourth and Morris going the opposite way for a one-out single to right in the seventh.
McLain doubled and singled, Gendreau singled twice and Richards doubled to account for Brewer’s hits.
“We knew it would be a tough one today, but the way we’ve been playing, the way we played [Friday] against Lewiston, I think we came in with all the confidence in the world that we could beat them,” said Richards.
“We all had faith in Tyler that he would throw a good game today, and we just came out and played like we could.”