GARDINER — Gardiner put down a brand new home plate at Hoch Field before Thursday’s KVAC game with Waterville. Not long after, Josh McKelvey, the Tigers’ starting pitcher, decided the corners needed painting.

McKelvey threw strikes and his fielders rewarded him with a flawless performance in a 4-1 win over the Purple Panthers.

McKelvey no-hit the Panthers for 5 1/3 innings before surrendering a clean, line drive single to left field by Cody Pellerin with one out in the sixth. Waterville threatened to cut into the deficit in that inning and each of the last three frames, leaving seven runners on base, including the bases loaded against reliever Sam Jermyn in the seventh inning.

McKelvey, who walked three, struck out two and hit a batter in six innings, took advantage of an aggressive approach by Waterville’s hitters, changing speeds and locations effectively to keep them off balance.

“My fastball was going where I wanted it. I really didn’t even need to use my curve ball,” McKelvey said. “I don’t normally throw a change-up and that was working today. But the defense really played great. I think I had the only error.”

Indeed, McKelvey bobbled a comebacker then walked a batter to get the tying run to the plate in the fifth, but got out of the jam by catching a pop up and inducing a force out at second.

Pellerin’s single and a walk brought the tying run to the plate again in the sixth with two out, but McKelvey got a ground out to shortstop to nip that potential rally in the bud.

“It’s pretty big for Josh to come out (on top). Unfortunately, in both of our losses this year (to Maranacook and Winslow) he’s been on the losing side,” Gardiner coach Russell Beckwith said. “It was nice to see him come out, get ahead of the batters today and really focus on letting them put the ball in play and letting our defense make the plays behind him.”

“Some days they’ll find the gaps and some days hit it right to your defenders. That’s what I’ve found,” McKelvey said. “You can’t let that shake you at all. If they’re being aggressive, you’ve got to hit your spots.”

By contrast, Waterville (4-3) committed three errors, two of which ended up being costly.

The first damaging miscue was a Logan Peacock grounder off the glove of the second baseman which allowed Devon Maschino to score the game’s first run in the third.

Waterville manufactured the tying run in the top of the fourth, but the Tigers (5-2) made Waterville pay for another misplay in the bottom of the frame.

Waterville starter A.J. Godin appeared to have gotten McKelvey to hit into a tailor-made, inning-ending double play. But the shortstop booted the ball and had to settle for trying to get the out at first base, but a hustling McKelvey beat the throw. One out later, Eli Fish drove in Josh Farrin with an infield hit to the hole between short and third that made it 2-1. Peacock then went to the opposite field and found the gap in right-center for a double that plated McKelvey and Fish and make it 4-1.

“That inning ranks as one of our best innings so far this year,” Beckwith said. “We got into a situation with two outs where our leadoff and two hitters come up, drive the baseball and grab a couple of runs out of that inning to put us ahead for the day.”

“Unfortunately, we had no defensive support today and this probably should have been a 1-0 game or 1-1 going into the seventh,” Waterville coach Don Sawyer said. “I’ve never seen our middle infielders play like that.”

Jermyn, a hard-throwing sophomore, came on to start the seventh and walked Cody Lyons with one out, then allowed Waterville’s second hit, a single by Corey Huerfano. After a fly out to center, he walked Cam Gardiner to load the bases, then struck out Pellerin swinging to end it.

McKelvey retired the first six batters to start the game and nine of the first 10 before hitting Gardiner with a pitch to lead off the fourth. Gardiner stole second, moved to third on Pellerin’s grounder to third and scored on Godin’s grounder to short to give Waterville a brief 1-0 lead.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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