ELLSWORTH — In a tightly contested league, the push to the top of the standings can be a grueling one. For Ellsworth baseball and softball, the past month has only reasserted that fact.
Wins have been plenty this year for Ellsworth’s diamond squads, both of which have affirmed their statuses among the big dogs in their respective Class B North fields. Yet even as both teams have churned out victories, their climbs have been anything but linear.
“It’s a tough league to move up,” said head softball coach Jake Hackett. “With the way the standings and the points work out with all the moving pieces, you’ve really got to take advantage of every opportunity you get.”
Following their latest wins, though, both Ellsworth teams will enter the postseason among the top-ranked teams — and with no clear front-runners in either field, the Eagles fancy their chances to compete with anyone.
The Ellsworth baseball and softball teams closed out regular season play with home wins in Tuesday’s games against Mount Desert Island. The Eagles prevailed 6-2 in baseball and walked off 4-3 winners in extra innings in softball to move into third and first place, respectively, in the Class B North standings.
Ellsworth’s baseball team started off the game somewhat slowly as it failed to reach base in its first five at-bats against MDI’s Jay Haney. Yet the Eagles’ bats would come alive with two outs in the bottom of the second inning as the team smacked five straight base hits and took advantage of two balks to establish a 4-0 lead.
“Our hitting just gets contagious,” said Nate Smith, who started Ellsworth’s two-out rally with a single to left field. “When we get one and two, we’ll get three and then four and just keep it going. It just keeps on going down the line with everyone following the guy before.”
After Ellsworth (11-5) made it 5-0 in the third inning on an RBI double from Craig Burnett, the Eagles stranded runners in scoring position in the fourth and fifth innings. MDI then used a walk, a wild pitch and two base hits to cut the deficit to 5-2 in the sixth before Ellsworth’s David Baugh recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
“I think we definitely missed some opportunities that could have opened up the game a little, but I was very happy on the other side of that with how that we stopped MDI from doing the same with some big outs,” Ellsworth head coach Dan Curtis said. “That toughness is what you want to see going into the playoffs.”
Ellsworth scored its final run of the game in the sixth inning as Riley King singled to bring in Reece Jagels. Baugh then struck out consecutive batters to begin the seventh before forcing a soft fly ball to center to end the game.
Ellsworth got Senior Day hits from all four seniors with two singles from Smith and one each from Jagels, King and Matt Reid. Brett Bragdon added two hits for the Eagles, who also got one apiece from Baugh, Burnett, Hunter Curtis, Peter Keblinsky and Michael Palmer. Baugh had a career-high nine strikeouts for Ellsworth on the mound.
The game was the 10th in a row in which Ellsworth, which has gone from the No. 6 spot earlier this month to a potential first-round bye, allowed four or fewer runs. Despite losing all three pitchers from their 2019 state championship run, the Eagles have once again moved up the Class B North field with sustained success on the mound.
“I’ve been very happy with our pitching staff,” Curtis said. “We basically have a group of guys pitching that have never thrown varsity baseball, and they’ve really kept us in every game. Everything is always within striking distance, and I think that should help us as we go into the playoffs.”
On the softball diamond, Ellsworth broke open a scoreless game against MDI (8-7) with a three-run inning in the fourth. After the Trojans scored three runs in the top of the seventh to tie the game and ultimately force extra innings, the Eagles got a walk-off hit from Tyler Hellum to seal their 14th consecutive victory.
Hellum also passed the 100-strikeout mark on the season as she fanned nine batters in a complete-game effort. The Eagles also got hits from seniors Kayla Duhaime and Sara Shea, who were honored along with teammates Samantha Carter, Hanna Hughes, Hannah Richardson and Lexi Rossi prior to the Senior Day win.
Ellsworth’s three hits on the afternoon were its fewest in a game all season. Yet despite being outhit 8-3 by the resilient Trojans, the Eagles were able to pull out a victory by stealing 11 bases and taking advantage of six walks.
“It’s great when you’re able to pull out a game like that,” Hackett said. “We struggled against a left-handed pitcher we hadn’t seen all season, and you have to give MDI a lot of credit because they played a great game. It was just a case of sticking together and believing in the system.”
Ellsworth, which had been hovering between fourth and sixth place earlier in the season, took over the No. 1 spot with the win. The Eagles will most likely enter the playoffs as the top seed, though Old Town could still surpass the Eagles with a win in its final game and a few favorable results elsewhere.
Final Class B North standings will not be available until later this week as several teams still had regular season contests remaining as of Wednesday morning. The No. 1 seeds will earn byes to the regional quarterfinals, though other highly seeded teams could also end up with byes if lower-ranked squads opt out of the open tournament.
Bucksport baseball concludes regular season 14-2
The Bucksport baseball team closed out the regular season on a nine-game winning streak as it defeated Washington Academy 1-0 in extra innings in Tuesday’s game at Bucksport High School.
Gavyn Holyoke scored the winning run for Bucksport on a wild pitch in the eighth inning. Ace pitcher Jake Guty claimed the win on the mound for the Golden Bucks as he struck out 11 batters in a complete-game effort.
Bucksport (14-2) will be the No. 2 seed in the Class C North tournament. The Golden Bucks will get a bye to the regional quarterfinals, where they will host the seventh- or 10th-ranked team.