HAMPDEN, Maine — The Hampden Academy baseball team fulfilled all the obligations of a high-seeded contender Thursday afternoon — blending offense, defense and pitching with the knack for taking advantage of its opponents’ mistakes.
That effort lifted the second-ranked Broncos to an 11-4 victory over No. 7 Lewiston 11-4 in an Eastern Maine Class A baseball quarterfinal Thursday at Bordick Park.
Senior right fielder Logan Steward had three hits and five RBIs to pace 15-2 Hampden, which will host a regional semifinal Saturday against sixth-ranked Messalonskee of Oakland (11-6), the defending state champion.
“The thing with this team is we like to get up on each other in the games, we get pumped up and it makes the game a lot more exciting,” said Steward. “We get pumped up and going and we feel like no one can stop us if we keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
The Hampden-Messalonskee clash will be rematch of a 2012 semifinal won by the Eagles 3-2 in eight innings. Hampden has defeated Messalonskee twice this spring, 10-0 in six innings at Hampden on April 19 and 9-2 at Oakland on May 6.
Steward had an RBI single in the bottom of the third when Hampden scored five unearned runs to build a 7-1 lead, then added a two-run double in the fourth and a two-run home run to straightaway left in the sixth.
Junior left fielder Matt Closson contributed two singles and three RBIs for coach McLean Poulin’s club, an effort highlighted by a two-out, two-run single to left-center in the bottom of the first that staked junior righthander Matt Martin to a 2-1 lead.
Martin worked the first five innings to get the pitching win, yielding two earned runs on five hits while striking out seven batters and walking three before sophomore Tristan Gardner came on to pitch the sixth and seventh.
“I was very inconsistent today,” said Martin, who has verbally committed to play baseball at the University of Maine beginning in the fall of 2014. “In the first inning I was a little all over the place, then settled in but got all over the place again and just tried to get outs.”
Lewiston (10-7) took a 1-0 lead against Martin on Eric Soucy’s two-out RBI single that drove home Mike Wong in the top of the first.
It was a short-lived advantage for the Blue Devils.
Nick Rodgerson drew a one-out walk off Lewiston left-hander Eddie Emerson in the bottom of the first and Matt Palmer doubled him to third. Closson drove home both baserunners one out later, getting ahead in the count before lining a single to center field.
“I think it was 2-0 and he gave me a pitch right down the middle and I drove it up the middle,” said Closson. “Getting ahead early is definitely great for team morale.”
Hampden capitalized on two Lewiston errors and a wild pitch to break the game open in the third as the first five Broncos to bat all reached base and scored.
Cooper Antone hit a leadoff double off the base of the left-field fence, then Rodgerson reached when when his popped-up bunt was dropped and the bases became loaded when Palmer also reached base on an infield error.
Steward drove home a run by beating out an infield hit to the shortstop hole, and Closson followed with an RBI pop single down the right-field line. Palmer scored the third run of the uprising on a wild pitch by Emerson before a sacrifice fly by Martin and an RBI groundout by Michael Ward plated the final runs of the inning.
“We dissected our season and noticed that two-thirds of the unearned runs we had given up came in six innings in which we had given up four or more runs,” said Lewiston coach Dave Jordan. “So coming in here against a team of this caliber, we felt if we could limit those mistakes we could play with them.
“But they’re a great team and took advantage of it all. They came up with some big hits to make us pay, but I thought our guys did a great job of continuing to battle and play hard.”
Lewiston threatened a big inning of its own in the top of the fourth but plated just one run on a bases-loaded walk to Wong before leaving the bases loaded when Alex Small hit an infield single that struck a baserunner to produce the final out.
Steward struck again in the bottom of the inning, delivering two more runs to make it 9-2 with a first-pitch double to the left-center field gap that drove home Rodgerson and Palmer after each had coaxed a walk from Emerson.
Small was Lewiston’s lone repeat hitter with two singles.