OLD TOWN, Maine — Old Town didn’t have many scoring chances on Tuesday against John Bapst ace Tommy Burns.
Instead, the Coyotes were able to capitalize when it counted.
Tyler Byther looped a single to right-center field to score T.J. Crawford with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning, lifting No. 8 Old Town to a 3-2 Class B baseball preliminary playoff victory over No. 9 John Bapst of Bangor.
“Tommy’s one of the best pitchers I’ve ever seen,” said Young, a junior captain. “We just had to grind it out and get through it.”
Coach Brad Goody’s Coyotes (10-7) advance to play at No. 1 Waterville (14-2) in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
Old Town scratched out only four hits against Burns (4-3). The hard-throwing right-hander struck out three, walked three and hit two batters.
Starter Garvey Melmed and Eric Hoogterp combined to limit John Bapst (8-9) to five hits, but had to work around five walks and three hit batters.
Hoogterp (3-3) picked up the win with three innings of one-hit relief after leaving the bases loaded in the sixth and seventh innings. Melmed scattered four hits with four strikeouts and two walks, while Hoogterp fanned four, walked three and hit three.
“Garvey didn’t look as sharp as he normally does, he was getting tired a little bit,” Goody said. “We just went with a fresh Eric Hoogterp and wanted to give them a different look.”
Young posted two singles for Old Town, while Harrison Dieuveuil doubled and singled to pace the Crusaders.
The hosts snapped a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning. No. 9 batter Kaleb Gifford got things started, lacing a single to left field.
“Just focus on your at-bat and wind up early, because he was a fast pitcher,” Gifford said of his approach.
He had been pinch-hit for in the fifth inning.
“He’s been struggling and I just told him, let [Burns] supply the power and just meet it,” Goody said. “He put a good swing on it and I’m extremely happy for Kaleb.”
Gifford was erased on a failed sacrifice bunt attempt by T.J. Crawford, who atoned for it by stealing second base. After Tyler Byther reached on a fielding error, Young served a low pitch from Burns into right-center to win it.
“I was sitting fastball. I wanted to get something to drive, but I got down 0-2,” Young said. “I just threw my hands out. I was trying to put it in play any way I could.”
John Bapst had grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first when Nick Jordan worked a one-out walk, took second on a passed ball and rode home on Cody Lyons’ single.
The Coyotes took advantage of some wildness by Burns to take a 2-1 lead in the fifth. Braden Upshaw opened with a bunt single to first and moved up on Melmed’s sacrifice bunt.
One out later, Burns walked Crawford and Byther, then hit Young with a pitch to force in a run. The go-ahead run scored on a wild pitch.
“He was pitching great. I think he just started overthrowing,” said John Bapst coach Dave Gonyar.
The Crusaders tied it in the sixth when Matt Spear walked with one out and scooted all the way home when Dieuveuil hammered a double to right-center.
“It was great to come back and tie it. That was a huge hit,” Gonyar said.
John Bapst had baserunners in six of the seven innings, but went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12.
“That’s one of the things we sort of lacked this year,” Gonyar said of a clutch hit.