TURNER — Tyler Hreben has been Maranacook’s closer this season, never pitching for more than three innings, until Saturday. 

On the road at Leavitt, Hreben started and went the distance in the Black Bears’ 5-1 victory over the Hornets in a KVAC baseball contest.

“He did great, that was his first start of the year,” Maranacook coach Eric Brown said. “He’s been our closer most of the year, and he’s a senior, so I couldn’t think of a better opportunity to get him out there.

“Leavitt always plays us really hard, so we put him out there.”

Hreben struck out 13 batters and only allowed one run on eight hits. The senior said that he wasn’t planning on pitching the whole game, but his arm felt good enough to keep going.

“My mentality was to get through with the fastball first time through and then when I came back through to use other pitches, more off-speed stuff to keep them off balance,” Hreben said. “It’s my first time going more than three innings. I wasn’t expecting to go that long, but I was feeling pretty good today.”

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The Black Bears’ (10-2) offense provided Hreben early support.

With one out in the top of the first inning, Alex Trafton walked and then stole second base on a wild pitch, the first of 10 steals by Maranacook. 

Two batters later, Nick Florek singled home Trafton to give Maranacook a 1-0 advantage. 

“We get a lot of steals,” Hreben said. “When you get a single, you’re on second every single time. It’s great for our hitters.”

“You’ve got to take an aggressive approach,” Brown added. “You don’t know if you’re going to get that clutch hit, and if you do, you need someone in scoring position.”

Maranacook’s Luke McLaughlin led off the second inning with a double off the left field wall, then he scored on a ground out by Trent Murray to make the Black Bears’ lead 2-0.

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Hreben struck out the side in the bottom of the second, but Leavitt got on the scoreboard the next inning. Connor DeCoster hit a one-out triple then was driven in on a single by Will Keach to cut the deficit to 2-1. 

The Hornets (4-7) finished with eight hits but left four base runners in scoring position throughout Saturday’s game.

“We’ve struggled to get the big hit all season,” Leavitt coach Chris Cifelli said. “Whether it be getting guys on with less than two outs or getting the big hit with two outs. We’re still trying to find our way through that, and probably for the last four games we’ve had some that we’ve hit pretty hard right at someone who was perfectly positioned.

“We’re just looking for that big hit, and we haven’t been able to come up with it.”

Keach pitched seven innings for the Hornets, giving up five runs on five hits.

Maranacook scored another run on him in the fourth inning when Brayden St. Pierre singled and then stole second and third before coming home on a groundout by Murray two batters later.

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Keach sat the Black Bears down in order in the fifth and sixth innings to keep the score at 3-1 heading into the seventh.

“The thing I like about him is he’s a sophomore and he battles,” Cifelli said of Keach. “He takes a lot of pride in his game. He really tries to stay open to coaching, and so when we’re getting good pitching performances from sophomores it gives us a chance. That’s part of the frustration because it feels like you’re close. We want to have some of that positive reinforcement.”

Maranacook added its final two runs in the seventh. Hreben doubled home Travis Lemelin, and the next batter, Trafton, singled in Hreben to push the Black Bears advantage to 5-1.

“It’s always stressful coming to Leavitt,” Brown said. “They shut us out twice last year, and so to come here and leave with a win is great because they’re always a tough opponent.”


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