ELLSWORTH, Maine — The Ellsworth High School baseball program has championship aspirations this spring, but there are stepping stones along the way that they hope will lead to such ultimate success.
The Eagles achieved one of those intermediate goals Thursday afternoon as Matt Burnett and Jackson Curtis combined on a one-hit shutout and Ellsworth remained undefeated by defeating Brewer 3-0 in a showdown of Class B North powers.
The Eagles improved to 10-0 in the rematch of last year’s Class B North regional final. Brewer, the reigning Class B state champion, fell to 7-3.
“We always try to look at the game right in front of us, but I know they’ve been amped up a little for this one,” said Ellsworth coach Dan Curtis.
Burnett, the University of Southern Maine-bound senior right-hander, controlled the Brewer batting order not only with his fastball but with a mix of complementary off-speed deliveries.
“I got to a few too many 3-2 counts, but the splitter was actually working, which has been an issue for me most of the season,” said Burnett, who is 5-0 this spring. “I finally got my curveball going and that was probably my most effective pitch. I can’t give them all fastballs because they’ll time it up eventually no matter how hard you throw.”
Burnett struck out 12, nine on called third strikes, and walked just three while throwing 111 pitches over six innings. Jackson Curtis worked a 1-2-3 seventh for the save.
“Our bats have come and gone like any high school baseball team, but the pitching has just been stellar,” coach Curtis said.
Ellsworth entered the contest having outscored its first nine opponents by a combined 89-8. And while Burnett hit a double and a triple, the Eagles otherwise found their offense stymied for most of the contest by Brewer sophomore right-hander Anthony Chiappone.
Chiappone (2-2) helped limit the Eagles to just one earned run on five hits. He gave way to sophomore Hunter Russell after Ellsworth capitalized on a Brewer throwing error to score two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Eagles generated the only run they needed an inning earlier when catcher Nathan Smith walked, was sacrificed to second base by No. 9 hitter Riley Grindle and scored on a two-out ground single to left field by senior Devin Grindle.
“I haven’t really been coming up for the team lately,” said Devin Grindle, who pulled an 1-0 inside fastball through the shortstop hole. “I’ve kind of been quiet, so it really felt good to get that hit.”
Both combatants have another significant test Friday in a regular season often delayed by Mother Nature.
Brewer is set to host Class A Bangor in a 3:30 p.m. at Heddericg Field, while Ellsworth will attempt to extend its winning streak at Class C-North leading George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill.
Coach Curtis, for one, hopes an Eagles’ pitching staff led by Burnett, Southern New Hampshire University-bound classmate Connor Wagstaff (2-0, 0.38 earned run average, 43 strikeouts in 18 innings) and Jackson Curtis (2-0, 0.58 ERA) will continue to lead the way.
“As a coach I couldn’t be more proud of Matt and the other pitchers we have,” coach Curtis said. “What they’ve done is almost an expectation every time they step out there. They’re just so talented and so hardworking and nice kids that you want to cheer for them.
“I just sit on a bucket and watch.”