ELLSWORTH, Maine — Gage Feeney flirted with a no-hitter Tuesday afternoon — and he needed to be that good for his team to win.
Feeney settled for a three-hit shutout and also scored the only run his team needed as Washington Academy of East Machias edged Ellsworth 2-0 in a Penobscot Valley Conference Class B baseball game.
The sophomore righthander made frequent use of a sharp-breaking curveball in tandem with an effective fastball to outduel Ellsworth sophomore Conor Maguire, who had a perfect game through four innings before finishing with a complete-game three-hitter of his own.
“I know Conor really well, I’ve played with him before and he’s a great pitcher,” said Feeney. “Seeing him go out there and not give up a hit gave me more motivation to go out there and do the same thing. It was fun. It was a good battle.”
WA, playing in its second and final season in Class B before returning to Class C next year, is now 5-2 this spring. Ellsworth falls to 1-7.
Feeney struck out 12 batters, walked three and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before settling for his first victory of the season with a 112-pitch performance.
“Really the curveball was keeping them off guard,” said WA catcher Fred MacLean. “They really weren’t hitting the curveball hard. Then his fastball overpowered them, really.”
Feeney was particularly dominant early in the contest. He struck out six batters in the first two innings — including four in the bottom of the second alone as Ellsworth’s Dustin Smelley reached base on a third-strike wild pitch to open the inning.
Feeney overcame four WA errors and did not allow a hit until Maguire beat out an infield single to load the bases with two outs in the Ellsworth sixth.
He then got out of that jam as WA center fielder Cameron Varney went to one knee to grab an inning-ending sinking line drive by Mitchell Domagala,
Ellsworth threatened again the seventh, loading the bases on a leadoff infield hit by Cody Del Conte and a two-out walk to Steven Mahon followed by a single to right by Jacob Maguire — the only Eagles’ hit to reach the outfield.
Up came No. 3 hitter Brandon Braley, but Feeney worked his way back from a 3-0 count to get the final out as Braley hit a soft liner to WA second baseman Kyle Taylor.
“Credit to Fred, he did a really good job behind the plate calling pitches and I did my best to spot them the best I could on the inside and outside corner,” said Feeney.
While Feeney’s fastball was too much for the Ellsworth lineup at times, Conor Maguire pitched to contact and relied on errorless defensive play behind him to subdue the Raiders.
Maguire struck out three batters and walked one while throwing just 83 pitches.
“It was pretty good,” said Maguire. “My curveball wasn’t working that well, but I could still throw strikes with my fastball. My coach (Mike Boles) told me to try not to walk anyone, so I was trying to hit my spots.”
Maguire did not allow a baserunner until Feeney led off the WA fifth by blasting a 3-1 fastball to deep right field for a triple. Feeney scored one out later as Andrew Hall grounded out to second base.
“I was waiting for the fastball, and my father (WA coach Derek Feeney) said before the at-bat that if he throws outside to go the other way with it,” said Feeney. “I knew I had a fastball count and he went fastball away so I stepped into it and went the other way.”
The Raiders padded their lead in the top of the seventh. Taylor led off with a ground single to right-center and went to second on a walk to MacLean. Taylor advanced to third on a flyout to center by Feeney, then scored as Varney hit a chopper to the mound.