BREWER, Maine — The Hampden Academy baseball team’s status as the only remaining undefeated team in Eastern Maine Class A five games into the regular season has been built more on perseverance than dominance.
Only one of the victories has come via the 10-run rule, a 10-0 six-inning conquest of defending state champion Messalonskee of Oakland that was a 2-0 game through four innings.
Two other wins have come by one run, one an extra-inning affair against Bangor.
And the Broncos’ latest victory, Monday afternoon’s 6-3 survival of Brewer at Heddericg Field, required a tiebreaking three-run rally in the top of the seventh.
“We figure we’ve just got to keep battling,” said Hampden junior Matt Martin, who pitched the first six innings to improve his record to 3-0. “We make some mistakes, but we try to make limited mistakes and then do damage control. Good teams find a way to win. We haven’t done it pretty all year, but we find a way.”
Brewer (2-3) scored twice in the bottom of the sixth inning on RBI singles by Matt Pushard and Dylan Birmingham to rally into a 3-3 tie.
But Hampden senior outfielder Logan Steward capped off a 3-for-4 day at the plate with a leadoff triple to left-center in the top of the seventh, and he scored the go-ahead run on Matt Palmer’s single to left.
“Coach [McLean Poulin] was saying we needed to get something rolling, and before I went up he said, ‘We need you on base, we need you on base,’” said Steward after his fourth multi-hit game already this spring. “I went down 0-2 real quick but fought back, and [Brewer reliever Matt Morrow] threw me that fastball right down the middle and I knew I had to put a rap on it.”
Morrow retired the next two batters before Martin hit an RBI double down the left field line. Martin then scored the final run of the uprising as Patrick Later reached on an infield error.
Hampden reliever Will Manning held Brewer scoreless in the bottom of the seventh to earn the save — aided by a game-ending 6-4-3 turned by shortstop Cooper Antone and second baseman Michael Ward.
“We’re a team that needs to get rid of ‘that’ inning,” said Brewer coach Dana Corey after his team’s third straight three-run loss. “We had ‘that’ inning down at Skowhegan when we gave up six runs in the first inning. We had ‘that’ inning against Bangor when we gave up four runs and we had ‘that’ inning here today when we gave up three runs at a crucial point.”
Antone, Palmer, Martin and Sam Ward each contributed two hits apiece to Hampden’s 14-hit attack while Brewer managed just five hits, including two each by Pushard and Spencer Valley.
Martin retired the first nine batters he faced and finished with 10 strikeouts and four walks while allowing four hits and two earned runs.
“In the beginning I felt pretty good,” said Martin. “Up until the fourth or fifth inning I felt pretty good, then I kind of lost my stuff for awhile, but we got the outs and did good damage control.”
Hampden never trailed in the contest, initially taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the third as Antone hit a two-out single, went to second on a wild pitch by Brewer starter Drew Hutchins and scored when Steward singled to left.
The Broncos made it 2-0 in the top of the fourth. Michael Ward and Martin hit back-to-back one-out singles, and after Later sacrificed them both into scoring position and reached first base thanks to an error on the play, Sam Ward blooped an RBI single to center.
Brewer finally broke through against Martin in the fourth. Valley singled to center on the first pitch of the inning, stole second and came home on back-to-back fielder’s choice grounders by Morrow and Tony Bissell.
But Hampden regained a two-run cushion in the fifth. Steward singled to left with one out, raced to third on a single to left by Palmer and scored on a successfully executed suicide squeeze by cleanup hitter Matt Closson.
Hutchins pitched the first five innings for Brewer, allowing three earned runs on nine hits while striking out three batters and walking no one.