DEXTER, Maine — Some pitchers just have another team’s number, and for Dexter Regional High School junior Jacob Bickford that number is four.
The righthander pitched to contact well enough Friday at the Ted Clark Baseball Park well to defeat Bucksport for the fourth consecutive time, scattering five hits and not allowing an earned run as the Tigers secured a 3-1 victory to edge the Golden Bucks out of the final first-round playoff bye in Class C North.
“Bick’s done a heck of a job against them,” said Dexter senior shortstop Brayden Miller. “He’s pitched against them the last four times we’ve played them and beat ‘em all four times. He pitches his butt off every time he goes out there.”
The victory capped off a 3-0 final week of the regular season for Dexter that moved coach Chad Graffam’s club from seventh place in the division to fifth — 0.7813 Heal points ahead of sixth-place Bucksport.
That means the Tigers (10-6) won’t play again until their quarterfinal on June 8 at No. 4 Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, a team Dexter edged 4-2 on Thursday.
“All year long these kids have worked hard for me,” said Graffam, whose team will take a four-game winning streak into postseason play. “Sometimes they don’t have the confidence in themselves and I get a little frustrated, but I know what’s there. When they come to play, they can play.”
Bucksport (8-8) will host No. 11 Calais in a prelim next Tuesday.
Pitching for the first time in two weeks, Bickford struck out three batters and walked three but induced 11 ground-ball outs.
“I think [the plan] was just to throw strikes and let them hit it and let our defense play,” said Bickford. “I didn’t have my best stuff so I just had to lean on them to do what they always do and that’s make plays.”
Bickford retired 10 of the last 12 batters he faced.
“He was rusty and we haven’t had any practice time to get him some throws so it took him a little time to get going,” said Graffam. “But he settled down in the last couple of innings.”
Dexter managed just six hits off Bucksport junior righthander Chase Carmichael but scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to snap a 1-1 tie.
Miller drew a leadoff walk and Bickford was hit by a pitch, but Miller was cut down at third base by Bucksport’s Cam Grindle on a pitch that was dropped but didn’t get far away from the sophomore catcher.
Bickford moved to second on that play and to third on a wild pitch before Matt Hanscome lined a single off the glove of Bucksport shortstop Tanner Stegner and into left-center field to drive home the go-ahead run.
Stegner began the play by circling behind Bickford at third base for a potential pickoff play but could not get back to his normal shortstop position in time to prevent Hanscome’s hit from reaching the outfield.
“I was down in the count but I knew I had to get a hit and I thought I saw a gap toward center. I tried to put it that way but got it a little too left and [Stegner] barely tipped it,” said Hanscome. “I saw him moving left so I tried to hit it toward center.”
Hanscome reached second base on a wild pitch and to third on a passed ball before scoring an insurance run on Matt Richards’ squeeze bunt.
Bickford and Carmichael had matching shutouts until Bucksport broke on top in the top of the fourth. Stegner reached second on an outfield error, moved to third base on Tyson Gray’s sacrifice and scored when Jake Ames singled to left — one of Ames’ three singles in the game.
Miller and Bickford led off the bottom of the inning with back-to-back singles, and when Carmichael unsuccessfully tried to cut down the lead runner on Hanscome’s sacrifice bunt the bases became loaded with no one out.
Zach White’s sacrifice fly to center plated Miller, but an alert move by Stegner on the play — faking a throw one way before cutting down Bickford at third base for a double play — prevented the Tigers from taking greater advantage of its opportunity.
Miller and leadoff hitter Nathan Richards finished with two singles apiece for Dexter.