GARDINER — Maranacook sophomore Jason Brooks has pitched a little in the past, but had never been in a situation like the one he faced Friday in the seventh inning against Gardiner.
With the bases loaded and one out, Brooks fanned two straight batters on curveballs to end the game and preserve a wild 11-10 victory for the Black Bears. Both teams are 1-1 in Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B play.
Brooks came on in relief of Skylar Webb with two runners on and no one out and the Black Bears leading 11-8 in the bottom of the seventh. He induced a ground ball from Josh Mashke that resulted in a two-run error to make it 11-10. The right-hander fanned pinch-hitter Patrick Coughlan, then intentionally walked leadoff batter Logan Peacock to load the bases. He finished it off by getting both Nic Berube and Josh Farrin swinging at third-strike curveballs.
“I was a little nervous because I knew I had to throw strikes or the game was going to be tied,” Brooks said. “I’ve been working on my curveball lately and had confidence in it.”
Both teams are young and in search of pitching which made for an entertaining if somewhat sloppy game in which the lead changed hands five times. The Black Bears took the lead for good with four runs in the top of the sixth, the big blow coming on Cam Brochu’s ground-rule double to left to make it 9-8.
“Coach always tells me if there’s a runner on third and less than two outs I’ve got to hit a fly ball somewhere,” Brochu said. “That’s one thing I know I can do in practice. If the pitch is there I can get it in the air.”
Matt Delmar followed with a ground ball to second to score a run then Luke Ruffing laid down a squeeze bunt, scoring Brochu to make it 11-8. Both starting pitchers — freshman Max McQuillan for Maranacook and Peacock, a Gardiner sophomore — were making their varsity debuts. Both lasted until the fourth inning.
“Max was on 80 pitches,” Maranacook coach Eric Brown said. “That was as far as I was going to go with him.”
Both Webb and Tiger sophomore Brady Smith pitched well in relief. Smith got out of the fourth and had a 1-2-3 fifth, the only such inning for either team, before running into trouble in the sixth. Kody Solmitz reached on an error and Smith hit leadoff batter Nick Lacasse. McQuillan’s sacrifice bunt went for a hit when no one covered first to load the bases, Brochu delivered his third hit for the Bears who finished with 12 overall. Delmar, Brooks and Kent Mohlar all added two hits apiece for Maranacook.
“We’re coming around,” Brown said. “We took a little extra BP today at Maranacook then hit again here. I think that helped a little bit.”
The Tigers also had some key hits. Smith had three hits, including a double, and four RBIs while Berube doubled and scored three times and Brad Weston doubled and scored twice.
“It was a hard-fought game and we made the mistakes that a young team is going to make,” Gardiner coach Chris McLaughlin said. “For only being outside three days I expect those mistakes. The biggest is they competed. They came back from a three-run deficit a couple of times and never gave up.”