DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Foxcroft Academy baseball team is in a transitional phase this season.
Graduation last June took 10 seniors — including the state’s reigning Mr. Baseball, Ryan Rebar — from a program which had reached the Eastern Maine Class C title game in 2011, won the Eastern B championship in 2012 and returned to the regional semifinals last spring.
Now midway through the current campaign, a new generation of Ponies who largely were either reserves or JVs a year ago is adapting to the varsity experience, as evidenced by Friday’s 7-2 victory over Ellsworth.
“They’re starting to feel more comfortable,” said Foxcroft coach Mark Chevalier, whose team is now 4-3. “As hitters, with preseason they’re starting to get to that 35 or 40 at-bat mark where they’re getting used to seeing quality varsity pitching.
“Defensively guys are looking more comfortable and confident out there, and our pitchers are throwing strikes and commanding their breaking pitches better.”
Abe Simpson, a sophomore right-hander making just his third varsity start, allowed just one earned run on eight hits with six strikeouts and two walks during a 95-pitch complete-game effort.
“Abe’s gotten stronger each time out,” said Chevalier. “He seems to be throwing harder, commanding his breaking ball better and getting stronger as the game goes on. We look for him to take another step his next time out and just keep getting better.”
And while not overwhelming offensively, Foxcroft took advantage of its opportunities to build a 7-0 lead with four runs in the first inning and three more runs in the second.
“At the beginning of the season and even a little bit now there’s a lot of guys who aren’t very confident, but they’re getting more into it with the more wins we get,” said Foxcroft center fielder Hunter Law, a fourth-year varsity player and the team’s lone senior. “The more experience they get, the more confidence they get.”
Each of Foxcroft’s rallies began modestly.
Brothers Brooks and Hunter Law both reached on one-out infield choppers off Ellsworth starter Hunter Cote in the first inning, with Brooks’ going for an infield single and Hunter’s producing a fielder’s choice with both runners safely aboard when the Eagles were unable to force out Brooks Law at second.
Clay Carroll and Nick Decker followed with RBI singles, another run scored on a wild pitch and Dylan Huff added an RBI groundout.
Nate Church opened the Foxcroft second with a first-pitch bunt single down the third-base line. Church scored on a single by Hunter Law, and two more runs came across on a two-out infield error to make it 7-0.
Foxcroft never sent more than four batters to the plate the rest of the way against Cote and reliever Nick Bagley, but Simpson made the lead stand up with a mix of fastballs and curveballs.
“I saw a young pitcher who looked like an experienced pitcher,” said Hunter Law.
Ellsworth (2-4) ended Simpson’s shutout bid with two runs in the fourth. Mitch Domagala ripped a leadoff triple to left and scored as Cote reached on an error. Steven Mahon followed with a one-out RBI single.
Mahon and Domagala each had three hits.
Simpson seemingly grew stronger over his final three innings, retiring Ellsworth in order for the only time in the top of the seventh.
“Our goal is just to be playing our best baseball come June,” said Chevalier. “We may not look like a million bucks every time out but we’ve had some good games so far and some that weren’t so good. We’re just trying to get better each time.”