READFIELD — The Erskine Academy baseball team wasn’t scoring, but Lars Jonassen liked the progress the Eagles were making. They were working counts, fouling off pitches, and causing Maranacook right-hander Dan Garand’s pitch count to rise.

At some point, the Erskine coach figured, the Black Bears ace was going to have to falter.

“After three (innings), he was at 52 (pitches). … We were hoping to maybe chase him in the fifth,” Jonassen said. “And he just got better. That’s the sign of a good pitcher.”

Garand couldn’t have done much more for his team, striking out 13 and allowing five hits and one walk in 6 2/3 innings to lead Maranacook to a 6-0 victory over Erskine in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference matchup, extending the Black Bears’ red-hot start to 8-1.

“Playing a team like Erskine is always a challenge. … To get a win off them is big for us,” coach Eric Brown said. “We went all-out, with Danny on the mound. He’s our workhorse, and he gets the job done.”

Garand also added three hits and an RBI, while Duncan Rogers had an RBI double.

Chandler Moore, pitching with a sore shoulder, struck out eight in five innings for Erskine (3-4), which doomed its chances with six errors, four of which came during a third-inning rally that gave the Black Bears all the runs they would need.

GARAND ROLLS: After allowing two hits in the first inning, Garand wasn’t seriously threatened the rest of the way. He struck out the side to escape that first-inning jam, then did it again in a 1-2-3 third. He had eight strikeouts through three innings and 10 through four.

“He’s the best pitcher we’ve faced,” Jonassen said. “Crafty, accurate. … He’s going to be very successful.”

Garand escaped a final threat in the fourth with the Black Bears leading 3-0. Erskine’s Nick Barber singled to right and Joe Clark did the same with two outs, but Garand fanned Nick Howard looking to strand the runners. The Eagles only reached base two more times the rest of the way.

“I was just feeling really good. The team had my back,” Garand said. “It went real well, we made no errors, they made all the plays. You can’t really ask for more than that.”

Garand cruised into the seventh inning, departing only because his pitch count had reached the limit of 110.

“I just come to play every day like it’s going to be a big game,” he said, “and today was definitely one of those games where everybody could tell we really wanted it.”

Brown said this sort of outing hasn’t been unusual from the senior.

“He’s tough,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t want to face him. He’s a tough guy, and he’s all about being out there. He just loves to be on the mound.”

MISTAKES OPEN THE DOOR: While Garand put up zeroes, Erskine’s Moore matched him, holding down a balanced Maranacook lineup.

“Chandler threw well today,” Jonassen said. “That was a really big plus.”

His defense hurt him in the third. After a strikeout, Aric Belanger, Jackson McPhedran and Silas Mohlar reached on consecutive errors, loading the bases. Garand then smacked a single past a diving Caden Turcotte at shortstop, scoring Belanger, and McPhedran scored on a wild pickoff attempt at first base. Mohlar came in when Jared Beckwith flew to left, making the score 3-0.

The plays went down as errors, but the first three came on hard-hit balls and in-between hops, and Brown credited his team with forcing the Eagles’ mistakes.

“That’s one of our things that we preach throughout the season, get the ball in play and make things happen,” he said. “We can’t have the strikeouts. Our guys are pretty good about getting the bat on the ball. They don’t strike out a ton.”

Moore worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fourth, but couldn’t keep the Black Bears off the board in the fifth. Garand singled, Beckwith walked, Rogers doubled to left to score pinch-runner Andrew Dupuy, and Beckwith and Rogers eventually scored on passed balls to make it 6-0.

JONASSEN OPTIMISTIC: Despite the loss and the defensive miscues that led to it, Jonassen said he saw signs that the team is finding its form in what’s been a sluggish start.

“I said to the team ‘Guys, three of the plays in their big inning were very tough plays,'” he said. “One-hoppers at the feet, line drives at the feet. They’re errors, but you’re lucky to make the plays.”

Barber singled twice for the Eagles, while Braden Soule and Turcotte also had hits.

“The good part was we faced a very good pitcher, and I think we competed. He did shut us out, but we competed,” he said. “The other piece is, if we can put together a good defensive game, we’ll be in most games, even a playoff game.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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