WATERVILLE — Moments of brief sunshine slicing through the clouds and intermittent rain seemed to mirror the highs and lows for the Waterville and Winslow High School baseball teams Tuesday afternoon.
The squads had their moments in the sun and others they’d like to forget, but ultimately a five-run sixth inning as the precipitation reached its apex powered the Raiders (8-3) to a 6-3 Eastern B victory over the rival Panthers (8-2).
“Obviously for both teams it’s exciting to play each other. It’s a big rivalry here,” Winslow coach Jesse LaCasse said. “Overall though, the best thing I saw from my team was we didn’t give up. We went down early, which is always tough against a good team. Our guys kept fighting, the weather didn’t faze them and we did capitalize on a few errors.”
Winslow trailed 3-1 heading into the top of the sixth but proceeded to send 11 runners to the plate in the inning, highlighted by a two-run, two-out single from senior Ryan Dubois to put the visitors ahead for good.
“That inning was just a total breakdown,” Waterville coach Don Sawyer said. “We kept saying we had a couple other mistakes leading up to that point that we cannot shut them out forever. It cost us when we made those two mistakes in the fifth inning.”
Dubois finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs for the Raiders, while lead-off hitter freshman Ben Smith was 2-for-5 with two runs scored. Junior Dylan Hapworth picked up the win in a complete game effort, allowing two earned runs on five hits while striking out eight on 120 pitches.
Senior Kaleb Kane led the way for Waterville going 3-for-3 with one run scored, while lead-off hitter junior Dan Pooler reached base safely all four times he came up and scored a run. Junior A.J. Godin threw well but was still saddled with the loss, as only four of Winslow’s six runs were earned. Waterville finished the game with five errors.
Early on Tuesday neither team was particularly sharp, but the Panthers managed to take advantage of some Raider miscues in the bottom of the third to grab a 3-1 lead.
Senior Aidan FitzGerald led off the inning by reaching on an error, and two straight pass balls allowed him to make it to third. Kane then walked, stole second and senior Alan Wood followed with a single to center to score both runs.
“We were doing the right things,” Sawyer said. “I felt that once we got up 3-1 if we could execute a couple of the other plays we had we would have been in much better shape.”
Winslow seemed poised to reclaim the lead in the top of the fifth, but a series of unfortunate events with the bases loaded and one out would prove costly.
Junior shortstop Alex Berard attempted to lay down on a bunt on an 0-1 count, but missed on his offering with senior Trevor Lovely charging in from third. After a lengthy rundown, Lovely was ultimately tagged out and two pitches later Berard grounded out to third to end the threat.
Through the first five innings the Raiders stranded eighth baserunners, but the struggles with runners in scoring position didn’t worry Winslow.
“This happened to us before,” Dubois said, referring to his team’s 6-1 win over Waterville on April 23. “Early in the season we were struggling, and in the sixth inning we came out and blew it past them. We did it again today and I’m really proud of that.”
In the top of the sixth, Winslow once again cashed in on its opportunities.
Sophomore Dameron Rodrigue started the rally with a one-out walk, while back-to-back Waterville errors loaded the bases. Lovely grounded out to second to score one run, setting the table for Dubois to give his team the lead just as the lingering light drizzle began to intensify.
“He’s been solid for us all year,” LaCasse said of Dubois. “He’s been holding down the DH spot and he loves it. The kid has a nice, quick, short swing. He’s the one we wanted up there in the rain. He’s a gamer.”
The Raiders’ designated hitter sent an 0-2 fastball right back at the shoelaces of Godin, and the ball continued into the outfield to allow Taylor Roy and Smith enough time to score.
“It was definitely tough to see,” Dubois said. “Getting a grip on the bat was tough, and I had to shorten my swing and then drive it.
“…I was looking for an inside pitch, maybe a fastball but I was definitely adjusting, shortened my swing and I got a hold of it.”
Dubois eventually came around to score on a Berard single, while Zach Guptill scored on an error to round out the game’s scoring. Left-hander Adam Barre ultimately got Waterville out of the inning by getting Rodrigue to ground out back to the mound with the bases loaded.
Shortly after the Panthers’ dreary inning concluded, the rain stopped and it proved to be positive omen for Hapworth and the Raiders.
The junior struggled with control early on — particularly with his curve ball, often times leaving it up in the zone — but in the bottom of the sixth he was at the top of his game. He got Barre to softly tap one back to the mound, struck out freshman Andrew Roderigue swinging on a nasty breaking ball and blew a fastball by pinch-hitter junior Ben Cox to get out of the inning on 12 pitches.
“A kid like Dylan, most of the times he can throw it by kids and he can throw his fastball for a strike,” LaCasse said. “We definitely promote that and use the curve ball only as needed.”
Pooler worked a seven-pitch walk to start the bottom of the seventh, but junior Cam Gardiner bounced one back the middle to set Berard up for the easy double play. Singles from Kane and FitzGerald kept Waterville’s hopes of a comeback alive, but Hapworth eventually closed the door on the Panthers by getting Wood to groundout to second to end the game.
The loss may have been disappointing for Waterville — particularly since it came against neighboring Winslow, the only team its lost to this season — but the sting should not linger too long for the Panthers. Waterville entered the game riding an eight-game win streak dating back to April 25, and are still in good shape to finish at or near the top of Eastern Class B.
“I still feel like we’re one of the better teams in B East right now,” Sawyer said. “If we can straighten this out we’re going to win games like this 1-0, 2-0 like we have all year.”
As for Winslow, the win proved they could beat a team at the top of the division. Since knocking off the Panthers in the season opener, the Raiders had just one win against an opponent with a winning record in four tries prior to Tuesday’s victory.
As both teams head into the home stretch of the regular season, each should be feeling pretty confident with where they stand though.
Winslow will look to keep its momentum going Wednesday at 4 p.m. when it travels to take on Nokomis, while Waterville will try to start a new win streak Wednesday at 4 p.m. as well when it plays at Maranacook.
Evan Crawley — 621-5640 | [email protected] | Twitter: @Evan_Crawley