ELLSWORTH, Maine — The Mount Desert Island baseball team has walked a fairly fine line early this spring, with pitching and defense overcoming a sluggish offense.
The Trojans used a slightly different formula for success Tuesday afternoon, overcoming a porous start defensively with solid pitching and timely offense to rally past Ellsworth 4-3 in a Penobscot Valley Conference clash.
Senior first baseman Adam Gray delivered the deciding blow, a ground single through the shortstop hole with one out in the top of the seventh that drove home the tying and go-ahead runs.
“It was a little iffy for awhile, but we pulled it out,” said Gray. “It was a good win.”
MDI is now 5-1 and ranked among the leaders in Eastern Maine Class B, while Ellsworth fell to 1-4, with three of its losses coming against MDI and defending regional champion Foxcroft Academy — teams with a combined 12-1 record.
With Ellsworth clinging to a 3-2 lead, Tom Paola hit a one-out single in the MDI seventh and went to third when Ben Walls singled on an 0-2 pitch to right field. Walls stole second base before Gray singled just to the third-base side of Ellsworth shortstop Brandon Braley to drive home both baserunners and give the Trojans their first lead of the game.
“My first three at-bats didn’t go the way I planned,” said Gray. “I was a little eager and swung at some pitches I shouldn’t have. The last at-bat I saw some ducks on the pond and I hit a good pitch. It was just a good solid swing and I sent it into left field.”
MDI reliever Jon Phelps then withstood two walks in the bottom of the seventh to hold Ellsworth scoreless and earn the pitching win.
This game started in disastrous fashion for an MDI team that had allowed just six runs in its first five games.
The Trojans committed three errors in the bottom of the first inning, and with Jacob Maguire and Conor Maguire each contributing RBI singles Ellsworth reached Paola, the MDI starter, for three unearned runs and a quick 3-0 lead.
“We’ve played good defense all year but today we were just sloppy,” said Gray. “I think we underestimated them because they had a 1-3 record. I think we took them lightly, and in baseball you can never do that.”
But that was it offensively for Ellsworth, which managed just two more hits against Paola and Phelps, while MDI played errorless defense the rest of the way.
MDI gradually chipped away with some unearned offense of its own against Conor Maguire, the Ellsworth starting pitcher.
Walls led off the top of the second with a walk, advanced to second base on a groundout by Gray and scored when Trevor Alley’s sharply hit fly to left field was mishandled.
MDI narrowed its deficit to 3-2 in the fourth as Walls hit a leadoff single, moved to third base as Gray reached on an infield error and scored when Alley doubled down the left-field line.
Paola, a sophomore right-hander, pitched the first five innings for MDI, yielding four hits while striking out three batters and walking two. Phelps struck out two and walked three while not allowing a hit in two innings of relief.
Maguire scattered seven hits while allowing two earned runs in 6⅓ innings. He struck out seven batters and walked three.
Walls was the game’s lone repeat hitter with two singles and three runs scored.
“We haven’t been making any errors and we’ve been pitching the ball well and making the plays when they hit it,” said MDI coach Mike Swanson. “That first inning looked like the Bad News Bears, and we haven’t been hitting well even though we’re 5-1, so every mistake is magnified and puts even more pressure on our offense.
“But our pitching kept us in it and we had some big hits there at the end. That’s probably the first time this year we’ve had three hits in a row. Seriously.”