HERMON, Maine — The Ellsworth Eagles used a four-run first-inning rally Thursday afternoon to knock Hermon from the unbeaten ranks with a 7-1 victory in battle of the top-ranked baseball teams in Class B North.
The victory moved Ellsworth (12-1) past Hermon (13-1) and into first place in the division with a week left in the regular season.
Coach Dan Curtis’ club capitalized on two Hermon errors, three hits, a walk, a hit batter and RBIs from Matt Burnett, Conner Wagstaff and Nathan Smith to build a 4-0 lead in the top of the first against Hermon ace Jacques LaBonte.
That was more than enough offensive support for Wagstaff, the senior right-hander bound for Division II Southern New Hampshire University this fall.
Wagstaff (4-1) scattered four hits — just one of which left the infield — while striking out 10 and walking three before reaching the 110-pitch limit with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Classmate Matt Burnett came on to close out the game with a three-pitch strikeout.
“Conner mixed it up pretty well and he kept his pitches down in the zone,” Curtis said. “When a pitcher throws hard and the ball’s down it’s awful hard to hit well.”
Ellsworth’s early lead also helped to subdue an aggressive Hermon offense that had been successful in 88 of its 89 stolen-base attempts while building a 13-game winning streak entering the only meeting of the regular-season with the Eagles.
“Getting that lead definitely let me get settled in and kind of control their running game,” Wagstaff said. “They couldn’t really do the things they like to do because it wasn’t a one-run or two-run game.”
LaBonte (6-1) settled down after a 37-pitch first inning to keep Hermon in contention until the top of the fifth. That’s when Ellsworth mounted a two-run rally after two were out.
Burnett singled to left field and Hunter Curtis doubled to right-canter. Both runners scored when Wagstaff lofted a perfectly placed pop single that landed among three defenders in shallow left-center field to make it 6-0.
The Eagles padded their lead in the sixth when Tyler Mitchell singled to left-center with two outs and scored on Devin Grindle’s triple to right.
Hermon ended Wagstaff’s shutout bid without a hit in the bottom of the seventh. River Mullen drew a leadoff walk, advanced two bases on wild pitches and scored on Dylan Leighton’s groundout.
Mitchell, batting in the leadoff spot in the order, hit three singles and scored twice to pace Ellsworth’s nine-hit attack. Wagstaff singled twice with three RBIs for the Eagles while Hunter Curtis posted two singles with two runs scored and Burnett added a single and a sacrifice fly.
Wagstaff also was backed by a defense that did not commit an error after the second Hermon batter of the game. The Hawks, who had been averaging 6.8 stolen bases per game this spring, stole just one base in the contest.
“Trying to throw the first-pitch strike was on the loose end, around 50 percent, which definitely should have been better, but the guys behind me picked me up countless times,” Wagstaff said.