NEWPORT, Maine — Close games are becoming the norm among the upper-echelon teams in a deep Class B North baseball world this spring.
Take Tuesday afternoon’s matchup between once-beaten Brewer and Nokomis of Newport, the last unbeaten in the division barely two weeks into the schedule.
Those teams had combined for three one-run wins in their last four games, the exception Brewer’s 8-5 win over Oceanside of Rockland in extra innings.
So when their first of two meetings this spring remained in doubt until the final out, no one who witnessed Brewer rally for a 4-1 victory over the host Warriors was surprised.
“Competitive games and good teams are what make coaching fun and makes it fun for the people watching, too,” Brewer coach Dana Corey said. “There are a lot of competitive teams in this league.”
Brewer, now 5-1 overall and 5-0 against Class B competition, was held in check for much of the sun-splashed afternoon by Nokomis sophomore right-hander Grady Berry, who induced nine fly-ball outs while shutting out the Witches through five innings.
But Brewer’s lone returning starter from last year, senior shortstop Kobe Rogerson, ignited his team’s offense in the top of the sixth as his single off the glove of Nokomis second baseman Gabe Gilley was the first of six consecutive hits that rallied the Witches from a 1-0 deficit to a 3-1 lead.
“[Berry] hit his spots really well,” said Rogerson. “He had a good catcher in Zach Hartsgrove behind him, too, and that helped, but once we got around the lineup a couple of times it really started to click and that’s when we got things going.”
Brewer senior righthander Evan Andrews scattered seven hits — five over the final two innings — to earn his second pitching win of the spring.
Hartsgrove’s first-inning double drove home Josh Perry with the game’s first run, but that was it offensively for a Nokomis team that like Brewer is now 5-1 after falling for just the third time in its last 24 regular-season outings.
“There always seems to be a tendency where I let up a few runs to start the game but then I get in my groove and usually it goes good from there,” said Andrews, who struck out eight, walked one and hit a batter during his 86-pitch complete-game performance.
Berry nursed that lead until the sixth, when Brewer’s Josiah Cyr followed Rogerson’s leadoff single with a double to center and Andrew Kiley then hit a game-tying single to right. Levi Williamson’s infield hit drove home Cyr with the go-ahead run before back-to-back singles by Andrews and Ben Byorak delivered the final run of the uprising with still nobody out.
Berry averted further damage by retiring the next three batters to leave the bases loaded.
Rogerson singled to right-center to open the Brewer seventh, stole second and went to third on a throwing error before scoring an insurance run for Brewer on Kiley’s one-out sacrifice fly to center.
Nokomis threatened in the bottom of the inning with three singles, only to have a runner cut down at the plate to quell the opportunity.
“We hit the ball off and on, and honestly I thought it was a well-played game,” said Nokomis coach Scott Hartsgrove. “They just came out on the better side of it.”
Rogerson, Cyr and Williamson had two hits apiece to pace Brewer’s 10-hit offense while Perry singled twice and Gilley and Hartsgrove each doubled for Nokomis.