BUCKSPORT — There’s been few relaxed moments during games between teams in a tightly bunched Penobscot Valley Conference Class B baseball division this spring.
Thursday’s rematch between Bucksport and Hermon was no exception.
But righthander Tyler French allowed one earned run over 6 1-3 innings, and Evan Eldridge came on to earn the save with the tying run in scoring position as the Golden Bucks held on for a 5-3 victory.
Bucksport, which avenged a 5-4 loss at Hermon earlier this spring, is now 5-2, while Hermon dips to 6-3.
“Our two losses (to Hermon and a 2-1 loss to Mount Desert Island last Friday) have both been tough ones where teams came back on us,” said French. “They were both games we thought we should have won but we made some errors and mental mistakes, so it was good to get this one. We’re really more excited about getting this one than we have about any other win so far this year.”
Eldridge not only supported French with his pitching arm, but also with his bat as he drove home four runs with a three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning and an opposite-field double in the the third.
“We knew this was a really big game and we wanted redemption because we felt we could have won the game up there,” said Eldridge. “But they’re a good team. We’re really similar, so it feels good.”
French scattered six hits while striking out two batters and walking four — none after the second inning — before giving way to Eldridge with one out and two runners aboard in the top of the seventh.
Eldridge retired the first batter he faced on a comebacker to the mound, then got the game’s final out when Dylan Smith was thrown out at the plate while trying to score from third base on a pitch that bounced to the backstop.
“I was just thinking about getting an out at a time, because Ty had pitched a great game and I wanted to close it out for him,” said Eldridge.
Hermon took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first on two walks, an outfield error, an RBI infield single by Will Perkins, a run-scoring fielder’s choice by Cody Veilleux and an RBI groundout by Kevin Frederick.
“I struggled in the first inning, I usually throw a lot more strikes but I hadn’t thrown in a week,” said French. “You could say I was a little rusty, I had a tough time hitting my spots, but as the game went on I got stronger and the defense got a lot stronger, we made some great plays.”
Eldridge tied the game with a single swing of the bat in the bottom of the first, following a leadoff single by Ryan Bailey and a two-out walk to Tyler McAllian by blasting a first-pitch fastball from Hermon starter Braddock Deabay well over the left-field fence for his first home run of the spring.
“He just left it high in the zone and I was ready to jump on one,” said Eldridge. “I know he had been throwing a lot of first-pitch curveballs, but I saw that he left one up so I turned on it.”
Eldridge hit a pop double to right field to get his fourth RBI of the game in the third inning after Billy DeRedin had walked and advanced to second on a single to left by French.
The Golden Bucks extended their lead to two runs an inning later, as James Potter reached on an error and scored on back-to-back one-out singles by Tyler Burrill and Bailey.
“I’ve been doing this for four years and every year I’ve never been worried if we got down early because we’ve got a team that’s always going to come back,” said French. “Even if we don’t come all the way back we’re going to fight back until the end.”