AUGUSTA — Brendan Curran made one mistake on the mound Wednesday afternoon. At the plate, he made sure it wouldn’t cost him — or the Skowhegan baseball team — the win.
Curran hit a pair of doubles in the sixth and eighth innings, the former putting him in position to score the tying run and the latter bringing in the go-ahead score, and pitched eight strong innings to lead the Indians to a season-opening 2-1 victory over Cony at Morton Field.
Mowed down much of the game by Rams ace Kolbe Merfeld, Skowhegan’s bats came alive when they needed to, continuing a trait coach Mike LeBlanc said he saw in his group last season.
“That’s basically what we were last year, and I guess we’re carrying it on this year,” he said. “We just know what we have to do, and they seem to get it done when they have to.”
Curran left one pitch hanging — a second-inning offering that Tyler Dostie drove over the right-field wall — and it appeared that would be enough to cost the Indians until he went up to the plate with two outs in the sixth. Curran hit the second pitch he saw out of the diving reach of Cony center fielder Cam Dunlop, and after an intentional walk to Marcus Christopher, came in to score when Garrett McSweeney’s towering fly ball found a way to drop in between Dunlop and second baseman Dakota Andow, evening the score at 1.
The game went into extra innings, and in the eighth Curran struck again. Adam Turcotte’s two-out grounder richocheted off the third-base bag for a double, and Curran jumped on an 0-2 pitch from Merfeld and pounded it off the base of the left field wall for another double, giving Skowhegan its first lead of the game at 2-1.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Curran said. “Usually when I’m not doing well it’s because I’m taking a lot of pitches. The first good pitch I saw, I was really trying to get a good piece of (it).”
“We don’t have that one kid that can produce all the time,” LeBlanc said. “But they’re always there, working hard. They just don’t quit. … (Curran’s) just a competitor. I can’t ask for anything more from him.”
Cony threatened in the bottom of the eighth, as Mitch McFarland hit a leadoff single and pinch-runner Ashton Cunningham made it to third with two outs, but Curran finished the game with his sixth strikeout. He threw all eight innings, doing so in 99 pitches and allowing five hits.
“Definitely to throw strikes,” the senior answered when asked what his approach was for the game. “The last thing I wanted to do was walk a bunch of people and then our fielders get cold and I get cold. I was really just trying to throw strikes, let them hit it and let our fielders do the work.”
The pitcher on the other side kept the pressure on. Merfeld was in cruise control for much of the chilly afternoon, striking out 12 in his eight innings of work. Skowhegan threatened against the Cony senior in the first, putting runners on second and third with two outs, but Merfeld extinguished the threat and allowed no baserunners until Curran’s sixth-inning double.
“Pitching was pretty stellar. He pitched great, he was ahead the whole game,” Cony coach Don Plourde said. “He started mixing in his knuckleball, his changeup, and started hitting spots more than anything.”
He got support in the second when Dostie, a junior first baseman, belted a 2-1 pitch for a home run to lead off the inning. Cony had a chance for another run cut down at the plate in the fourth when Dostie was hit by a pitch, advanced on a groundout and tried to score on an infield single by Mike Levesque. First baseman Kiel Lachapelle noticed Dostie headed for home, however, and his throw was in time to prevent a run the Rams eventually would need.
“(We were) a couple of inches away on a couple of high balls, pop ups, from winning 1-0,” Plourde said. “We had some good at-bats in cold weather. That kid was tough, no question about it. But it’s definitely frustrating to lose a game like that when you have a kid who pitched as well as he did.”
Drew Bonifant — 621-5638