LINCOLN, Maine — Mattanawcook Academy baseball coach Dave Hainer has been reluctant to use Lance Bernier on the mound, not because he can’t pitch but because of his value defensively in the outfield.
But the junior righthander got his first chance to throw in a regular-season game since the 2007 season Tuesday, and rewarded his coach with a complete effort buoyed by strong infield defense as the Lynx defeated Bucksport 10-3 in a Class B matchup at Alumni Field.
Bernier struck out four batters and walked just two in a 104-pitch complete-game effort. He also snared two hard-hit line drives back to the mound, caught a wind-blown infield popup and escaped his last serious jam by fielding a bases-loaded grounder and tagging out the oncoming base runner heading toward home to end a Bucksport threat.
“He threw strikes and kept them off-balance, but he’s also a great fielder,” said Hainer. “That’s the one reservation I have about starting him is that I have to take him out of center field, because in my opinion he was the best outfielder in the league as a sophomore last year.
“It weakens our defense in the outfield when he’s pitching, but when he makes plays like he did on the mound — two line drives and then the ground ball between home and the mound with the bases loaded that he fielded and tagged the runner when he really had no other play — it’s huge.”
Bernier was content to rely on his defense during this windy day, keeping his pitches low so they wouldn’t be hit into the jet stream that was pushing the ball out to right field.
“I knew I had to throw strikes so I just tried to go out there, let the batters put it in play and let my fielders do the work,” said Bernier. “I didn’t strike out many batters, but I knew as long as I threw strikes we’d get outs. I tried to keep the ball low because the wind was really strong today.”
Ray Wood hit a leadoff double and scored on Steve Klenowski’s one-out single to left to give Bucksport a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
Mattanawcook (1-1) sent eight batters to the plate in the bottom of the inning, leaving the bases loaded but taking a 2-1 lead before no one was out as Tyler Tash drew a leadoff walk, Ethan White doubled off the right-field fence and Bernier followed with a two-run double to right.
Bucksport (2-1) tied the game in the second as Kyle McGeechan hit a leadoff double to right and scored on Cam Wentworth’s single to right.
MA broke the game open with four runs on just one hit in the bottom of the inning, capitalizing on an error, two walks, a hit batsman and a sacrifice fly by Nathan Ireland to take the lead for good.
Bucksport added its final run in the fourth on an RBI infield hit by Cody Farrell, but Bernier escaped a bases-loaded, two-out threat when he got Klenowski to chop the ball back toward the mound, fielded the ball cleanly and tagged out Wentworth before he could slide home safely.
MA made it 9-3 in the bottom of the fourth, aided by three Bucksport errors and a sacrifice fly by Kacey Knights. The Lynx scored their final run in the sixth when Bernier drew a leadoff walk, advanced on a wild pitch and scored when Josh Murchison’s single was misplayed in left field.
Mattanawcook managed just six hits off three Bucksport pitchers, with White and pinch-hitter Donnie Russell each contributing a double, but the Lynx also were able to steal four bases to help set rallies in motion.
“We had a lot of first-and-third situations when we executed well,” Hainer said. “If you get first-and-thirds and then you steal second, then it only takes one hit and you don’t need a ton of hits to have a decent inning.”
McGeechan led Bucksport with two doubles and a single, while Klenowski singled twice.