BLUE HILL, Maine — The George Stevens Academy baseball team got its season off to a good start Tuesday afternoon.
But the Eagles’ 11-1, five-inning Class C victory over Sumner of East Sullivan also might have provided a glimpse of what the sport will be like at the high school level this year with the implementation of BBCOR-standard bats designed to reduce the speed of the ball upon impact.
Coach Dan Kane’s club combined nine singles, patience at the plate and aggressive base running to generate offense and used solid pitching and defense to hold Sumner in check.
“The ball doesn’t carry as much and the outfielders are playing in for that, so you just want to hit the ball and put it in play as much as possible,” said winning pitcher Ben Olivari, one of just two seniors on the GSA roster. “But the ball will still go if you hit it in the sweet spot just like with other bats.”
The Eagles had three stolen bases, but were even more effective in reading the ball off the bat to advance two bases after a single on several occasions, setting the stage for run-scoring opportunities — particularly during a five-run uprising in the second inning and a four-run outburst in the bottom of the third.
“We’ve worked more on aggressive base running,” said GSA junior first baseman Gavin Rogers. “Coach Kane has always been big on aggressive base running but this year it’s been even more. You don’t have as many balls that are going to go all the way to the fence so you’ve got to try to get ahead on the bases as much as you can.”
Leadoff hitter Finn McMahon-Allwine led the George Stevens offense with three singles, a walk, two runs scored and four RBIs. His bases-loaded, two-run ground single to center sparked the Eagles’ third-inning rally that stretched their lead to 10-1.
“I was just trying to make contact because the bases were loaded,” said McMahon-Allwine. “I was trying to get it out of the infield.”
The sophomore center fielder added a two-out single in the fourth to drive home Peter Howell with the run that eventually ended the game a half-inning later under the 10-run rule.
Howell walked in each of his three plate appearances and scored each time he reached base. Cleanup hitter Mariner Cheney drove home two runs for GSA with a single and a fielder’s choice.
Olivari, a left-hander, used a mix of fastballs and offspeed pitches to limit Sumner to just three hits over five innings, but he had to escape jams in each of the first two innings before settling down.
A walk to Tristan Rayner and a ground single to center by Lucas Potter-Harmon gave Sumner runners on first and second with no one out in the top of the first. Olivari then retired the next two batters before Rogers made a leaping catch of Connor Lee’s line drive to end the inning — with plenty of baseball still showing as he made the grab.
“I wasn’t sure I had the ball in my glove,” said Rogers. “At first I went toward first, then I jumped for it and I came down with it and thought, ‘I got it.’”
Sumner loaded the bases with one out in the second, but Olivari retired Rayner on a popout to Rogers and struck out Potter-Harmon to end that threat.
Olivari yielded an unearned run in the third as Dillon Harmon reached on GSA’s lone error, stole second base and went to third on an infield hit by Lee before scoring on a sacrifice fly by freshman Sam Smith.
But Olivari picked off Lee to end the inning, then retired the final six batters he faced.
“In the first two innings it was opening day and I was a little tight,” said Olivari. “But I loosened up.”