ORONO — Injuries to two starters and a one-game suspension that sidelined a third left just three Penobscot Valley of Howland baseball players in their normal positions for Tuesday afternoon’s Penobscot Valley Conference clash against Orono.
Fortunately for the Howlers, one of those players on familiar ground was Jacob Jones.
The senior righthander struck out 14 batters and walked just two during a complete-game pitching performance as Penobscot Valley outlasted the Red Riots 10-8 at Mahaney Diamond on the campus of the University of Maine.
The Howlers, ranked second in Eastern Maine Class C, are now 8-1 on the season, while Orono dips to 2-5-1.
“That was probably the most upset our lineup’s been since I’ve been coaching,” said Penobscot Valley coach Ernie Gerrish, whose sidelined starters included catcher David Hallett (knee) and Ryan Scopino (broken wrist). “We’re down some real key players right now, but we fought through it.”
Jones settled down after spotting Orono a 2-0 first-inning lead on RBI singles by Phil Benoit and Cam Dwyer, yielding just two more unearned runs until tiring in the seventh.
“Normally I throw a lot of curveballs but I didn’t throw that many today,” said Jones, who improved his season record to 5-0. “Today it was mainly fastballs and I was locating it up above the eyes and inside and outside. I threw a few curves to keep them off-balance, but mostly it was the fastball.”
Jones also led the Howlers’ seven-hit offense with a double, two singles, two runs scored, two RBIs and two stolen bases.
“Jake’s solid,” said Gerrish. “He is the backbone of this team.”
Penobscot Valley took the lead for good with eight runs in the top of the second — despite the fact Orono righthander Phil Benoit struck out four batters in the inning.
But the Howlers capitalized on two errors, two passed balls and two walks to go with three hits — a two-run double by Jones and RBI singles by Wyatt Butler and Logan Jipson — to build an 8-2 lead.
“It was a relief for me, I can tell you that,” said Gerrish of the rally. “We had some real concerns today coming into the game. We knew Orono’s a good club. Their record is 2-5-1 but they’re way better than that and we knew they were not going to lay down so we had to get some runs across. We had the big inning, then Jake pitched well starting in the third inning and got locked in.”
Orono scored one unearned run in the bottom of the second and another in the third to draw within 8-4 before Penobscot Valley padded its lead with two runs in the sixth on a walk, a two-out single by Jones, an infield error and two wild pitches.
Orono’s seventh-inning rally featured a two-run double by Dwyer after an RBI infield hit by Tyler Eddy.
Dwyer and Benoit each doubled and singled for Orono, while Ethan Hall singled twice.
Benoit (2-2) allowed three earned runs on seven hits while striking out 11 and walking four in a complete-game performance for the Red Riots.