May 25, 2018
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Seventh-inning outburst lifts Waterville baseball team past Camden Hills to earn playoff bye

By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff

ROCKPORT, Maine — Their battle for a preliminary-round playoff bye went down to the last inning of the last game.

Then Waterville suddenly erupted for eight runs in the top of the seventh to snap a 4-4 tie and surge past Camden Hills 12-4 in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference showdown played amid fairly steady drizzle Wednesday.

The victory likely will advance the 14-2 Purple Panthers not only from fifth place in Eastern Maine Class B at the start of the day to a top-three finish good for a first-round bye when the final Heal points are tabulated, but all the way to the No. 1 spot in the divisional standings.

“We really wanted to get this win because a first-round bye is big,” said junior third baseman Dan Pooler, who had three of Waterville’s 10 hits and scored twice from the top of the Purple Panthers’ batting order. “You get to save a big pitcher and you don’t have to play in that first round, which is big because there are some big upsets in that first round.”

Camden Hills, which began play holding the third and final bye position, fell to 12-4 after having its nine-game winning streak ended. The Windjammers likely will finish fourth in the division, meaning they would host a prelim next Tuesday.

Junior righthander A.J. Godin (5-2) earned the pitching win, shaking off a sluggish start during which he allowed four runs on six hits over the first three innings to no-hit Camden Hills the rest of the way.

“It’s tough coming down here with that long trip, but I kind of settled down and realized that I didn’t have to try to strike everyone out,” he said. “I just wanted to make them put the ball in play and then we’d make the plays, which we did.”

“The first three innings were kind of rough, but the last four innings were a 10.”

Waterville made Godin’s late-game stinginess pay off by sending 11 batters to the plate during a big final at-bat that started modestly.

Owen Brown reached on an infield throwing error and Alan Wood beat out an attempted sacrifice for an infield hit before Godin was walked intentionally to load the bases.

Brown beat the throw home on a fielder’s choice grounder by Ben Cox to score the go-ahead run, then Wood scored on a sacrifice fly by Andrew Rodrigue — though the Camden Hills coaching staff argued that Wood left third base early on the play.

Pooler was hit by a pitch to reload the bases before Cam Gardiner hit an RBI single to left, Aidan FitzGerald drew his second bases-loaded walk of the game and Pooler scored on a suicide squeeze by Caleb Kane.

Brown followed with a sacrifice fly before Wood capped off the uprising with his second hit of the inning, a two-run single to right center.

“We came together really good as a team and we all got each other pumped up, especially in that last inning,” said Pooler. “We really wanted to score a run or two, and come to find out we scored eight.”

Wood and Godin each finished with two singles for coach Don Sawyer’s club, while Cox scored three runs from the eighth spot in the Waterville lineup.

Leadoff batter Aubrey Pennington singled twice for Camden Hills, while Connor Graffam smashed a two-run home run.

Camden Hills entered the game having scored five straight wins by shutout and not having allowed an earned run in nearly a month — a span of 46 innings that started after Nokomis of Newport scored in the bottom of the fifth during a 7-2 loss to the Windjammers at Newport on May 6.

But Waterville scored unearned runs off Camden Hills righthander Chandler Crans (4-1) in each of the first two innings to offset a towering two-run blast by Graffam well over the left-field fence in the bottom of the first.

Camden Hills capitalized on two Waterville errors to score twice in the third for a 4-2 advantage, then Waterville re-tied the game and snapped the Windjammers’ earned-run scoreless streak in the top of the fourth on a sharply hit RBI infield single toward second base by Pooler and a bases-loaded walk issued to FitzGerald.

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