TOPSHAM — It’s never a good sign when the entire opposing lineup hits twice in the first two innings.
That’s what Mt. Ararat High School starter Garrett Moody faced in Thursday’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference baseball game against Hampden Academy, and the damage didn’t stop there.
The visiting Broncos took advantage of 10 combined walks on the day and exploded for eight runs in the first two frames alone en route to a dominant 16-2 win in five innings.
The first of those walks came in the first at-bat of the game, and it didn’t take long for Nick Lorenzo to round the bases. Casey Sudbeck singled in the three hole and a two-RBI double from Alex McKenney gave Hampden Academy (9-3) an early 2-0 lead. Two more walks eventually set up Rece Poulin in the eighth spot, who struck a two-RBI single up the middle to make it 4-0.
Moody chucked 35 pitches in the frame for Mt. Ararat (5-5) and coach Bob Neron hadn’t seen anything like it.
“He’s always good for 75 or 80 pitches,” Neron said of Moody. “He’s my No. 1 pitcher. We finagled it for him to pitch in this game because we knew this was a big game for us. He always keeps the game close and gives us a chance. This is probably the only one in the last couple years that’s gotten away from him. Those walks were not him at all.”
Moody looked to be rebounding with two quick outs in the second, but Sudbeck doubled in his second at-bat to spark a two-out rally. Moody then plunked three batters in a row to make way for Gavin Partridge, who smacked a two-RBI single into right field to make the score 8-0.
John Wolfington was walked at the bottom of the order and Moody (62 pitches, eight walks) was finally pulled with Lorenzo set to bat for the third time in two innings.
“The last week or so, we’ve really been putting it together offensively,” Hampden Academy coach McLean Poulin said. “Beginning of the year, we’d have eight, 10 hits in a game, but never the timely clutch hits with runners in scoring position. The last week they’ve really come around.”
“They hunted for strikes,” Neron said of Hampden Academy. “They didn’t get themselves out. They waited and got their pitch, and took what we were giving them. If they weren’t throwing strikes, they were taking the walks.”
Ryan Glass came in on relief, but it was much of the same for the Broncos in the third frame. Sudbeck reached on an error to start the inning and then three singles in a row from McKenney, Andrew Gendreau and Max Thomas moved the score to 11-0. Sudbeck and McKenney scored in each of their first four at-bats, and Thomas (three runs, one single), was hit by three pitches on the day.
“They threw what they had,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t necessarily fun getting hit, but got an RBI the hard way, I’ll take it.”
“I preach all the time, look for your pitch, especially early in the count,” coach Poulin said. “If it’s not yours and they let it go, fine. I want them going for their pitch.”
Five more runs came across for the visitors in the fourth and it wasn’t until Ryan Mello came on to pitch in the fifth that Mt. Ararat got a 1-2-3 inning. By then, though, it was much too late.
Same old Smith
Mello reached base twice on two infield grounders and scored on a fielder’s choice in the second inning, but for the most part, Hampden Academy starter Brandon Smith was in full control.
The righty moved promptly and tossed just 27 pitches in the first two frames, and limited the damage in the third after a pair of Eagles’ hits. He struck out one and walked none over five full innings of work on 72 pitches.
“Brandon was typical Brandon,” coach Poulin said. “That’s what he does. He pounds the zone and tries to keep it low for those ground ball outs. That’s a typical Brandon Smith outing right there.”
Kaileb Hawkes stroked an RBI double deep into right field in the third inning as one of two extra-base hits for Mt. Ararat.
“I expect us to score more than two runs any time we take the field,” Neron said. “Offensively, we need to pick it up a little bit. These guys work so hard at hitting, it’ll come. We’re getting guys on base. We haven’t been striking out a lot and I think it’s just a matter of time — this one just got away from us early.”