AUGUSTA — A new and improved Zach Mathieu set the tone for the Messalonskee baseball team Wednesday with a three-run homer in the first inning off Cony starter Payton Kennison.
Mathieu’s blast over the left-field fence highlighted a five-run inning for the two-time defending Eastern Maine Class A champions en route to a 6-1 win over the Rams at Morton Field.
Kennison settled down after his shaky start and allowed just two more hits and a run over the next four innings, but the damage was already done. The Cony senior walked Jake Dexter and Jonathan Wilkie to open the game and Mathieu drilled the first pitch he saw over the fence.
“This year I’ve just changed my entire approach,” Mathieu said. “If it’s there no matter what, take a swing. The off-season helped. I gained about 20 pounds and everything seems to going pretty good right now.”
Devin Warren singled, stole second and scored on Ben Frazee’s base hit to make it 4-0 and Connor Garland’s groundout brought home the fifth run. The Eagles added an unearned run in the third on Trevor Gettig’s sacrifice fly. Cony scored its lone run when Tayler Carrier homered to left center in the second inning.
Dexter, who was due to pitch in relief this season, drew the emergency start for the Eagles (3-0) before giving wafter scheduled starter Nick Mayo left the team earlier in the week to concentrate on basketball. Dexter went three innings before giving way to sophomore left-hander Josh Casey who picked up the win. Casey pitched out of jams in each of the three innings he pitched, picking off a runner in the fourth and getting a call at the plate when Cony’s Reid Shostak ran over Messalonskee catcher Trevor Gettig in an attempt to score. Shostak was obligated to slide according to high school rules, although Gettig was up the third base line well in front of the plate. Gettig was down for five minutes before being helped to his feet. The call drew an automatic ejection for Shostak.
“I’m from the old school,” Messalonskee coach Ray Bernier said. “I would have looked at it as just a normal clean play but according to the high school rules that’s the right call. That’s a tough one either way.”
In the sixth, Kennison doubled off Devin Warren’s glove in left center and after an out, Mitchell Caron picked up an infield hit. Casey escaped the jam by inducing a pair of infield ground balls.
Kennison settled down after the first and got the side in order in the second as well as the fourth, finishing with five strikeouts and two walks.
“After my second at-bat he got me with a great curveball,” Mathieu said. “It seemed like he was throwing a little harder, too.”
Frazee and Warren each had two hits for the Eagles while Caron had a pair of hits for the Rams. While Messalonskee has designs of a third straight Eastern Maine title, Cony is trying to dig itself out of a hole after an 0-3 start. Last year the Rams went 11-5 in the regular season and figured to be at least as strong with the addition of Kennison and Mitchell Bonenfant to the pitching staff.
“I think we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing,” Carrier said. “We work hard in practice, unfortunately we’re just not hitting the ball and putting up the runs, but I think they’ll come.”
Added Cony coach Don Plourde: “We only scored one run today but I told the guys it was tenfold better than our last two games. We squared up eight or nine balls and hit the ball hard. We’ll get there.”