THOMASTON, Maine — No one amid Tuesday’s postgame celebration knew exactly when the Nokomis of Newport baseball team had last won a playoff game, though the general thinking was on the order of two decades ago.
Whatever its duration, that streak of futility is now history.
Junior righthander Zach Ramsdell scattered 10 hits during a complete-game pitching performance and delivered a suicide squeeze bunt that ignited a game-breaking four-run rally in the top of the fourth inning as the 11th-ranked Warriors defeated No. 6 Oceanside 6-3 in an Eastern Maine Class B preliminary round contest.
Nokomis (8-9) advances to a regional quarterfinal Thursday at third-seeded and defending Eastern Maine champion Foxcroft Academy, while Oceanside ends its season with a 10-7 record.
“Last year I know was the first year they were in the playoffs for about 20 years and it was a first-round loss at Camden Hills, so this win has definitely been a long time coming,” said first-year Nokomis head coach Rob Dominick. “We’ll have a nice long bus ride home to live it up, and then we’ll get back to work [Wednesday] and get ready for Dover.”
Ramsdell and Nokomis had withstood 11 errors to outlast Oceanside 11-8 in their mutual season opener on April 17, but the Warriors’ defensive effort in the rematch was nearly pristine, with just one outfield miscue.
That enabled Ramsdell to work his pitch-to-contact magic, yielding at least one hit in each inning but never allowing the Mariners to string together enough hits to develop a significant rally.
“My approach is to throw strikes because I have a great defense behind me,” said Ramsdell. “My curveball was working really good today. I’ve never been able to blow it by them so I’ve always relied on that.”
Ramsdell struck out four batters, walked just one and stranded seven Oceanside baserunners while improving his record to 6-3.
“Defensively they played sound baseball and Ramsdell kept us off balance,” said Oceanside coach Don Shields. “The one thing he does is throw strikes. He didn’t walk anybody the first time we faced him and he only walked one today, so you’ve got to work for everything you get off him and he pitched well.”
Nokomis took the lead for good when Connor Allen hit a two-run home run down the left-field line to break a scoreless deadlock in the top of the second.
Allen was protecting the plate on a 3-2 pitch from Oceanside sophomore Ryan Allender and went to the opposite field for his third home run of the spring.
“I knew it was a hard hit,” said Allen, a junior first baseman. “And when I rounded first base all my teammates were out there cheering me on. I was ecstatic because I didn’t think it would go.”
Oceanside freshman Nick Mazurek answered with a leadoff homer to left in the bottom of the second, but a two-out, second-and-third threat by the Mariners in the third was diffused when Nokomis center fielder Chandler Foss ranged to his right to track down an inning-ending fly ball headed toward the left-center field gap.
Jake Nichols opened the Nokomis fourth with a line single off the glove of leaping Oceanside shortstop Drew Townsend, and Allen then walked before the runners advanced to second and third on an Aron Smestad sacrifice.
Spencer Hartstgrove walked to load the bases and prompt Oceanside to make a pitching change, then Ramsdell bunted reliever Nick Judge’s first pitch in front of the plate with the runners in motion to drive home a run and leave the bases loaded as he reached first base safely.
Justin Kasprzak followed with a two-run double down the right-field line to make it 5-1, and Ramsdell came around to score the final run of the uprising on a throwing error.
“Nokomis executed,” said Shields. “The suicide was big, they had that inning when they were able to get the four runs and turn the order around, and they got a couple of big hits early on. Give them a lot of credit, they came ready to play and did a great job.”
Mazurek doubled and scored on a two-out single to left by Thomas Curtis to cut Oceanside’s deficit to 6-2 in the bottom of the fourth.
The Mariners scored their final run in the seventh on a leadoff single by Judge and a two-out double to left-center by Zac Roman.
Kasprzak paced Nokomis’ nine-hit attack with three singles, while Allen had a double to go with his home run and Foss doubled and singled.
Townsend, one of just three seniors in the Oceanside lineup, had a triple and two singles to go with Mazurek’s two extra-base hits and a double and single by Roman.