ELLSWORTH — After tough openers against top programs, the Ellsworth baseball and softball teams are now in the win column following victories over local rivals.
Ellsworth bounced back from season-opening defeats in Friday’s games against Old Town with home wins Tuesday against George Stevens Academy. The Eagles claimed a 10-0 win in the baseball showdown and prevailed 3-1 on the softball diamond for their first victories of the year.
The Ellsworth baseball team sent the GSA lineup down in easy fashion early Tuesday as pitcher Craig Burnett struck out the side in the first and second innings and fanned two of the three he faced in the third. The home team hit the ball hard early on but produced only one run to show for it courtesy of an RBI double from Hunter Curtis.
In the fourth inning, though, that would change. With one runner on second base and two outs, GSA (2-1) intentionally walked Curtis to bring Burnett to the plate. The sophomore immediately made the visitors pay as he lined a double to left field to score Brett Bragdon, and Ellsworth stretched the lead to 4-0 one batter later on a two-run double by Peter Keblinsky.
“The boys settled down and locked in with two outs,” Ellsworth head coach Dan Curtis said. “I wish they’d have that same focus with no outs or one out, but those situations sometimes just make those good players concentrate. That’s what they did, and they came up with some big hits.”
GSA’s offense threatened for the first time in the fourth inning as Sol Lorio and Jonah Reay singled to begin the frame. Yet Burnett responded with back-to-back strikeouts before issuing a walk and getting a forceout at third to escape the jam unscathed.
Ellsworth (1-1) made it 6-0 in the bottom of the fourth as RBI singles from Billy Garland and Bragdon provided two more runs for the home team. Burnett then retired the side in the fifth and sixth innings before Ellsworth plated four runs to claim a walkoff win via the 10-run rule.
Burnett finished with 13 strikeouts and one walk in six innings of work for Ellsworth to claim his first career win. Bragdon went 4 for 4 with three runs scored for the Eagles, who got two hits each from Burnett and Garland and one apiece from Curtis, Keblinsky, Reece Jagels and Michael Palmer.
Craig Burnett, the younger brother of former two-time Penobscot Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year Matt Burnett, had previously struck out seven batters in 3 1/3 innings against Old Town. The Ellsworth ace delivered that performance despite missing two weeks of practices and preseason games as a result of a heart issue, and he built on it Tuesday with an effort to make his brother proud.
“I’m wearing his number and everything,” said Burnett, whose No. 18 is, indeed, the same one worn by his brother from 2016-19. “It feels great [to be following in his footsteps], and hopefully, I can live up to his name and keep the Burnett thing going.”
Ellsworth, Dan Curtis said, was a bit too selective against Old Town standout Gabe Gifford in Friday’s opener. Yet the team came out much more aggressive against GSA, and even though the hard-hit balls didn’t result in many hits or runs early, his team was rewarded for staying the course with multi-run third, fourth and sixth innings.
“Gifford really mixed it up well, and we struck out nine times looking, which is something that would drive any coach crazy,” Curtis said of the loss to Old Town. “Today, we came after it, and we were able to get that timely hitting and string some runs together.”
The Ellsworth softball team entered Tuesday looking for a win of its own following a 3-2 loss Friday against the Coyotes. The two teams were tied at 2 for much of the contest before Old Town broke through with the decisive run in the top of the seventh to claim the victory.
Ellsworth, though on the wrong end of the result, showed plenty of promise in defeat. The Eagles outhit Old Town 7-4 (two hits apiece from Casey Carter and Sara Shea and one each from Alex Bivins, Tyler Hellum and Hannah Richardson) and got strong pitching from Hellum, who struck out nine batters and walked just two in a complete-game effort.
“We had some early jitters with the adrenaline of being in the first game, but we were able to move on from that and get back in it,” said Ellsworth head coach Jake Hackett. “Tyler pitched well, and Old Town’s two pitchers pitched well, and it was a hard-fought game. I’m sure it will be another hard-fought game when we play them next time.”
On Tuesday, Ellsworth found itself in another low-scoring affair, this time against a much-improved GSA team that had scored 19 runs in its season-opening win against Sumner. Although the home team produced only five hits, it secured the runs it needed to top GSA (1-1) and claim its first victory since May 2019.
Hellum excelled in the circle once again for Ellsworth (1-1) as she struck out 11 batters, walked just two and allowed only three hits in another complete-game performance. At the plate, the home team got a double from Alicia Havey and singles from Hellum, Shea, Kayla Duhaime and Hannah Hughes.
Both Ellsworth teams will be in action at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, May 1, for home doubleheaders against Caribou. The Eagles will then play their first road games against the season when they face Bucksport at 4 p.m. (baseball) and 4:30 p.m. (softball) Tuesday, May 4.