MADISON — In the most critical part of the season, the bats have been a bit quiet for a Skowhegan baseball team that had been cranking out hits and runs in the early stages.

That didn’t really change Thursday afternoon — but postseason baseball is about surviving and advancing, and with a strong pitching performance, clean defense and just enough offense, and advance the River Hawks did.

Skowhegan earned a 2-1 victory over Camden Hills in the Class A North quarterfinals. The win came as the River Hawks’ Noah McMahon (complete game, eight strikeouts, four hits allowed) bested the Windjammers’ Hunter Bell (complete game, 14 strikeouts, two hits allowed) in a back-and-forth pitchers’ duel.

“We didn’t put the ball in play enough, but we escaped with a win, and that’s all that matters,” said Skowhegan head coach Mike LeBlanc. “(Bell) is a fantastic pitcher, and we knew it would be tough. We had those two innings where we got a run, and that’s what we needed.”

Those innings came in the third, in which Skowhegan recorded its lone two hits of the ballgame, and the fourth, in which the River Hawks took advantage of two Camden Hills errors to get another run across. The win sent Skowhegan to the regional semifinals Saturday against No. 2 Messalonskee (14-3).


Bell was nearly untouchable for Camden Hills over the first two innings, striking out the side in both. He also struck out Skowkegan’s Tyler Clark to begin the third, but the River Hawks then got back-to-back hits from Jack Fitzpatrick and Chance Tibbetts before a wild pitch scored Fitzpatrick all the way from second.

Camden Hills tied it back up in the top of the fourth as Brian Leonard doubled to begin the inning before scoring on a Kai Young single. Third-ranked Skowhegan (10-7), though, went back on top in the bottom half as a pair of two-base errors to begin the inning cost the Windjammers dearly.

“We just needed to put the ball in play, and we knew that,” McMahon said. “We executed when we had to. There are times when we didn’t, and we have to work on that, but I definitely think we did what we needed to do to get the win today.”

Camden Hills’ Kai Young slides safely into second base as Skowhegan’s Jack Fitzpatrick attempts to tag him during a Class A North quarterfinal baseball game Thursday in Madison. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Bell was perfect for No. 6 Camden Hills (7-10) the rest of the way, even striking out the side with Skowhegan’s Jason Aubin on third to close out the fourth. Yet McMahon was no less efficient for the River Hawks, allowing a lone baserunner over the final three frames to clinch his team a semifinal berth.

After scoring five or more runs nine times over its first 12 games, Skowhegan has failed to do so in each of its past five games. Although the River Hawks have been able to scratch out hits here or there, the top-to-bottom steadiness has been missing during the stretch run.

“I think we just need more consistency throughout the lineup,” LeBlanc said. “We’ve had games where the lower part of the order has done well, games where the middle has done well and games where it’s been the leadoff, but we just haven’t put a full game together at all. Hopefully, we will Saturday.”

It will be a rubber match between Messalonskee and Skowhegan teams that each took a game off one another this season. The River Hawks pounded the Eagles 14-1 back on April 22 before Messalonskee got Skowhegan back with a 5-3 nine-inning win in the regular-season finale.

“I think it’s going to be a great game,” McMahon said. “I think it’s going to be that whoever has their head on right wins the game. It’s going to take a lot of executing and doing what we have to do.”

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