LEWISTON, Maine — Sure, it’s April, when the infield dirt is rugged as plywood, the outfield grass is brown and saturated, and the pitchers are ahead of the hitters.
If Eddie Emerson exhibits the same control and velocity his left arm wielded Wednesday at Deschenes Field, however, Lewiston will be a nightmare every fourth day in May and June, too.
Emerson tossed a two-hit, 11-strikeout, 80-minute masterpiece in a 1-0 season-opening KVAC baseball triumph over Hampden Academy.
“I felt pretty good in the bullpen,” Emerson said. “I felt like everything was working, and I kind of felt like it was one of those days that should go pretty well.”
His performance was a breeze that rivaled the stiff, swirling wind on the overcast afternoon.
After surrendering a bloop single to Tristan Gardner and plunking Matt Closson to launch the game, Emerson retired 15 consecutive Broncos.
Ben Huston singled to start the sixth and eventually reached third, but Emerson escaped by fanning Michael Ward.
The left-hander then fashioned a fitting finish in the 1-2-3 seventh. Emerson threw out Matt Martin on a chopper to the mound, stabbed a screaming comebacker off the bat of Jackson Gilmore and struck out Casey Sudbeck.
“We’ve been talking about getting command,” Lewiston coach Dave Jordan said. “During preseason a lot of guys were trying to get control and weren’t at that next level. Today he had great command.”
It took Emerson’s best to outduel fellow senior Martin, who was sensational in his five-inning stint for Hampden.
Martin struck out nine, including the side in order in his final frame. He allowed only three hits.
Lewiston scored the winning run in the third.
Gage Cote cranked a two-out double into the gap between the diving Closson and Gardner in right-center field. He advanced all the way home on a pair of passed balls.
“Just getting good jumps on the pitcher and looking for the ball,” Cote said of the crucial sequence.
Lewiston avenged a road loss in the 2013 Class A East quarterfinals.
“We faced [Emerson] in the playoffs last year, so I knew what type of pitcher he was, and obviously with Martin going I fully expected a battle,” Hampden coach McLean Poulin said. “It was either whoever got the big hit or whoever made the first mistake.”
In addition to catching Emerson’s gem, Cote was 2-for-3 for the Blue Devils. He had a bunt single and a stolen base in the first inning, only to be stranded when Martin struck out Matt Poulin and Emerson, both looking.
Emerson squirmed out of his first-inning jam with consecutive strikeouts of Ward, Martin and Gilmore.
“He was spotting it very well, especially low-and-inside on the righties,” Poulin said.
Nick Perreault also went 2-for-3 for Lewiston, which welcomes reigning regional champion Messalonskee to town Friday.
“When you think about the first time out that counts and both teams were able to play the way they did, to get pitching performances like that, that was a pretty special opening day,” Jordan said.