BANGOR, Maine — The pitchers dominated as John Bapst of Bangor and Foxcroft Academy squared off in a late-season Eastern Maine Class B baseball showdown Tuesday afternoon at the Winkin Complex on the Husson University campus.
But it was the difference in defenses that was the deciding factor as John Bapst secured a 4-1 victory that likely will land coach Dave Gonyar’s Crusaders the No. 1 seed in the region when the final Heal point ratings are released this weekend.
All the runs off senior righthanders Evan Pelkey of John Bapst and Ryan Rebar of Foxcroft were unearned, with three errors by the defending Eastern Maine champion Ponies leading to all the offense the Crusaders needed while John Bapst committed just one fielding miscue.
“I don’t know about the points, but it definitely feels good,” said John Bapst senior outfielder Josh Baker, whose team entered the game ranked second in the division. “Dover’s definitely a competitor every year. It’s nice to come out and compete against them and it’s better to win. They’re a really good team.”
The victory was the ninth straight for John Bapst, which finished its regular season at 14-2 by avenging a 4-0 loss to Rebar and Foxcroft in its season opener at Dover-Foxcroft on April 23.
Foxcroft, which began the day as the No. 3 team in Eastern B, is 13-2 with a game remaining Thursday at Mount Desert Island.
“I was more disappointed with the lack of energy we had from the outset,” said Foxcroft coach Mark Chevalier. “This was the biggest regular-season game we’ve played in four years and I thought we’d be really up for it, but it just didn’t feel like we were and you’re not going to beat a team like John Bapst on their field if you play that way.”
Pelkey (5-0) yielded just three hits — one a bunt single — while striking out seven batters and walking two during a complete-game performance. Of his 86 pitches over seven innings, 62 were strikes.
“My curveball was on today,” he said, “and I’ve never thrown my changeup this season at all but I threw it today and it worked and I got some outs with it.
“I’ve never been this accurate before, and other than pitching in Senior League I’d never pitched in a big game like this in high school baseball so I tried to stay as focused as I could.”
Rebar (5-1) was equally accurate, throwing 64 of his 90 pitches for strikes over six innings. He scattered six hits while striking out seven batters and walking no one.
“I thought Ryan certainly held up his end of the bargain, and if we back him with the kind of defense we’re capable of playing we probably shut them out,” said Chevalier. “Evan pitched very well. He attacked us, got ahead of hitters, didn’t walk many guys, changed speeds and made things tough on our hitters.
“We were sluggish early like we have been and we never got anything going.”
Pelkey relied largely on his fastball to retire the first nine batters he faced — five via strikeout — before Foxcroft took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth.
Caleb Richard led off with an opposite-field field single to right, then scored from first one out later when Hunter Law’s bunt single was thrown into right field.
John Bapst took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning on Baker’s two-out, two-run triple to right field.
Pelkey beat out an infield chopper to third base and advanced to second as Tom Burns reached on an infield error. Both runners scored when Baker drove a first-pitch fastball to the opposite field just between Foxcroft first baseman Kaleb Smith and the first-base line.
“It looked like with the past few batters [Rebar] had thrown fastballs so I was waiting for it and sat back and drove it,” said Baker.
The Crusaders capitalized on two more Foxcroft errors to extend their lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth.
Nick Jordan grounded a leadoff single up the middle, reached second base on an outfield error and went to third as Jon Deschaine reached on an infield error.
Andrew Catlin then doubled to left to drive home Jordan, and while Rebar then struck out the next three batters he faced a two-out passed ball allowed Deschaine to score and give John Bapst a three-run cushion.