HAMPDEN, Maine — Matt Palmer wasn’t necessarily trying to overpower his opponent at Bordick Park on Friday afternoon.
It just turned out that way.
The senior righthander pitched a one-hitter and the Hampden Academy Broncos scored eight runs in their last two at-bats to defeat defending Class A state champion Messalonskee of Oakland 10-0 in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference baseball game that ended in the sixth inning under the 10-run rule.
Hampden is now 2-0 this spring after defeating Messalonskee in their first meeting since dropping a 3-2, eight-inning heartbreaker to the Eagles in last year’s Eastern Maine semifinals.
Messalonskee falls to 1-1 after having its 11-game winning streak ended.
Palmer struck out 12 batters and walked just one during a 78-pitch performance that was both dominant and deceptive.
“Coach [McLean Poulin] talked to me before the game and he was really stressing pitch count where it’s so early in the season,” said Palmer. “He wanted to keep it under 80 and I think I stopped at 78. He just talked as the game went on about getting ahead early. That’s what you’re supposed to do from the first pitch, and that was the goal.
“Even if it was a curve, I tried to get it in the zone and make them swing. It was all about throwing strikes.”
Relying largely on a curveball to complement his fastball, Palmer recorded all of his strikeouts against the two-through-seven batters in the Messalonskee lineup — with half coming on called third strikes as the Eagles had difficulty catching up with fastballs high in the strike zone but were reluctant to chase similar heat near the knees.
“[We were] just mixing it up and throwing curveballs when he needed to,” said Hampden catcher Pat Later. “The way he surprised them really was an advantage for us.
“Pretty much the point of today was to keep them guessing and never letting them know what was coming.”
Palmer took a no-hitter into the top of the sixth before Jared Cunningham, the No. 9 hitter in the Messalonskee lineup, lined a 2-2 fastball into left field for a one-out single.
It was the only ball the Eagles hit out of the infield.
“It was a fastball,” said Palmer. “I think it was a seven- or eight-pitch at-bat, too, and he kept fouling it off and fouling it off and I threw another fastball and he pulled it.”
By that time Hampden had finally broken the game open, scoring four runs in the bottom of the fifth to extend a two-run lead it nursed through the first four innings.
A two-run double to deep left-center by by Logan Steward off Messalonskee reliever Jake Dexter highlighted the fifth-inning uprising, coming just after a bloop RBI single to right by Later.
Hampden closed the game out with four more runs in the sixth, with three runs coming on sacrifice flies to center field — one of which was dropped — by Palmer, Michael Ward and Later.
“When we got two runs early, I think the guys saw how well Matt was throwing and they kind of sat back a little thinking maybe that was all we needed,” said Poulin. “I had a little talk with them and said we needed to help him out, that if we could shorten the game then let’s shorten the game.
“I talked with them a little about having the killer instinct, and they showed that by scoring four runs in the next two innings to break it open.”
Palmer doubled, singled, scored once and drove home a run as part of Hampden’s eight-hit offense. Steward had a single, a stolen base and a run scored to go with his double, while Later also had two RBIs and Tristan Gardner contributed a double.
This game began as a pitchers’ duel between Palmer and Messalonskee sophomore righthander Ben Frazee, with Frazee using a blend of off-speed pitches to offset Palmer’s hard-throwing ways.
Hampden took the lead with a pair of unearned runs in the second inning. Matt Martin reached on an infield error and was sacrificed to second base by Later. Steward then singled and stole second before Martin scored on a Nick Rodgerson groundout.
Steward scored on Messalonskee’s second infield error of the inning to give Palmer and the Broncos a two-run cushion.