ROCKPORT, Maine — The Camden Hills baseball team won the battle of the big innings Tuesday — and with it a trip to Aroostook County.
Kyle Olehnik hit a two-run home run to spark a six-run, third-inning uprising by the Windjammers and relief pitcher Caleb McFarland started a key double play in the top of the seventh as No. 8 Camden Hills held off No. 9 Nokomis of Newport 9-6 in an Eastern Maine Class B baseball prelim.
The win advances coach Jeff Hart’s club (10-7) to a regional quarterfinal at top-ranked Presque Isle (15-1) on Wednesday. Game time is 6 p.m.
Nokomis, making its first postseason appearance in two decades, ends its season with a 9-8 record.
Olehnik’s home run to left field off Nokomis starter Justin Amoroso, coming just after Adam Carlsen had hit a leadoff double to right-center, ignited a six-run, seven-hit rally that gave Camden Hills a sudden 6-0 lead.
“The past two games I’ve been feeling it,” said Olehnik, a senior catcher who also homered during the Windjammers’ regular-season finale, a 10-0 victory against Belfast on May 29. “I’ve been seeing the ball well and I’ve been hitting it well.”
McFarland, Chandler Crans, Andrew Flanagan and Joe Chamberlain each added an RBI single as Camden Hills sent 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the third.
“We had a good approach against Amoroso,” said Hart. “We had some good swings, and obviously the big swing by Olehnik, and we were able to keep it going in that inning.”
Nokomis scored twice in the top of the fourth on an RBI triple to right by Justin Kasprzak and an RBI single by Amoroso, but the Camden Hills lead grew to 7-2 in the fifth inning when Crans walked, raced all the way to third on a sacrifice by Flanagan and scored on a groundout by Alex Crans.
Carlsen, the Camden Hills starter, allowed just three hits through five innings before Nokomis finally reached the right-hander for its own big inning, a four-run rally in the top of the sixth that drew the Warriors within 7-6.
Kasprzak led off the inning with a home run to right-center, and Chandler Foss later greeted reliever Elliot Grindle with an RBI single up the middle to cut the gap to 7-4. Grindle walked three of the next four batters, including Zach Ramsdell and Spencer Hartsgrove with the bases loaded to make it a one-run game before finally ending the inning by getting Kasprzak to ground out to second with the bases loaded.
“Early in the game I was getting ahead of all the batters, and the curveball was breaking a lot and getting low,” said Carlsen, a senior who plans to play basketball at Thomas College in Waterville next winter. “Toward the fifth and sixth innings I kept leaving it up. I left everything up toward the end because I was tired.”
Camden Hills countered with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Olehnik reached on a wild pitch after a strikeout and stole second before being cut down at the plate on a strong relay throw by Hartsgrove, the Nokomis shortstop, after a one-out single by McFarland.
McFarland reached second base on the play and scored when Connor Hart lined a double to deep center. Hart then scored to make it 9-6 as Chandler Crans reached on an infield error.
McFarland came on in relief to start the seventh, but a walk to Amoroso and a single by Noah Kershner gave Nokomis two baserunners and plenty of hope with no one out.
But Jake Winslow hit a hard one-hopper back to the mound, and McFarland threw to Carlsen at second base to start a momentum-killing double play before striking out the next batter to end the game and earn the save.
“We started off well, but they’re a great team and we knew they were going to battle back,” said Olehnik. “Give credit to Elliot and Caleb for coming into a tough situation, and we were able to ride it out.”