MILLINOCKET, Maine — Stearns High School has used pitching and defense to rise near the top of the Eastern Maine Class C baseball standings this spring, and both were in evidence at DiFrederico Field on Friday afternoon.
Left-hander Kyle McVey pitched a six-hitter and the Minutemen scratched out two unearned runs to edge Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln 2-1 in a battle of top-five teams.
“[Assistant] coach [Don] Boyington and I have been driving home to the kids that unearned runs are what makes you lose games and can help you win games when you get them,” said first-year Stearns coach Ryan Carrier, “so if we can keep those runs we give up to a minimum and get some hits, we’re going to win some games.”
McVey struck out six batters and walked no one during an 84-pitch performance that included 59 strikes.
“He was just throwing a lot of strikes, pounding the strike zone and the fielders were making a lot of plays,” said Stearns catcher Jordan Morrow. “We played like a team.”
McVey relied primarily on locating his fastball around the edges of the plate — reaching a three-ball count just twice during the contest — and he was supported by an errorless defensive performance.
“I’m confident because of our team in the field,” he said. “We don’t make many errors, so I just concentrate on throwing strikes. That’s my goal.”
Led by the pitching of McVey and Morrow and a defensive alignment that includes sophomore shortstop Nick Dumas, Stearns has not allowed more than four runs in any game so far this spring and now is unbeaten in eight contests since dropping a 9-4 home-field decision to Piscataquis of Guilford on April 27.
“I felt like we were going to be strong because we had to get thrown into the fire last year,” said McVey, one of seven seniors in the Stearns lineup. “A lot of younger kids had to step up last year, so I knew we’d be able to pull it together and be better this year.”
McVey outdueled Mattanawcook righthander Austin Smith, who scattered five hits while striking out six, walking one and hitting a batter during his 114-pitch complete-game effort.
Stearns (10-2) reached Smith for the winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Tanner Carrier was hit by a pitch with one out, and while he was forced out at second base on a fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop by McVey, an errant relay throw enabled McVey to reach second base.
Dylan Martin then reached on Mattanawcook’s only other error of the game, another errant throw after his grounder to shortstop, and McVey raced around to score on the play and give the Minutemen a 2-1 lead.
Stearns’ other run came after Smith struck out the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the first.
Morrow then singled to center field at the end of an eight-pitch battle with Smith and advanced to third base on a single to center by Carrier before scoring on a passed ball to give Stearns a 1-0 lead.
Smith then shut down the Minutemen, retiring 11 of the next 12 batters he faced, but Mattanawcook (8-4) was unable to break through against McVey until the top of the fifth.
Smith led off that inning with a single to center, and Nick Garfield then sacrificed pinch-runner Wyatt Tash to second base. Trevor Sutherland, the No. 9 batter in the Lynx lineup, followed with a game-tying RBI single to left-center.
Sutherland was the game’s lone repeat hitter, adding an infield single in the third inning.