ELLSWORTH — Looking to find its offensive rhythm, there was no better time than Senior Day for the Ellsworth baseball team to get back on track.
After scoring 78 runs in their first seven games of the 2019 season, the Eagles entered Wednesday’s showdown with John Bapst having scored just 15 in the past four. That stretch culminated Friday with a 3-1 loss to George Stevens Academy that dropped Ellsworth from the ranks of the unbeaten.
“We let ourselves get a little too high and a little too low sometimes and got into our own heads,” Ellsworth senior Conner Wagstaff said. “We let mental errors turn into more mental errors, which just can’t happen.”
This game, though, was a chance for the Eagles to reverse the trend. Playing at home for the last time (for now, at least), Ellsworth’s veteran players came through when it counted.
Ellsworth’s seniors led the way at the plate Wednesday as the team earned a 9-1 victory over John Bapst at Ellsworth High School. The result was the product of Ellsworth’s best offensive output in six games, though it was a still a bittersweet moment for the Eagles’ senior players.
“It all goes by so fast,” senior Devin Grindle said. “I’ve been part of this baseball program since freshman year, and I’ve watched our program grow, I’ve watched our coaching staff grow and I’ve watched our team grow. The people and the family have stuck with me.”
With a stretch of five games in eight days forcing Ellsworth to choose its starting pitchers carefully, the Eagles turned to junior Jackson Curtis on the mound rather than Matt Burnett or Conner Wagstaff, the team’s senior standouts. Curtis started strong in the first two innings as he struck out five of the first six batters he faced and picked a runner off first base.
Wagstaff gave Ellsworth a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when he hit a single to left field to score Hunter Curtis. After advancing on the throw and stealing third base, Wagstaff came in for the Eagles’ second run when he scored on a sacrifice fly from fellow senior Charlie Hughes.
Although John Bapst pitcher Connor Young kept Ellsworth in check in the third and fourth innings, Jackson Curtis did the same in the third, fourth and fifth to keep the Crusaders (5-8) off the scoreboard. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Wagstaff hit a triple to the center-field fence to give the Eagles a 4-0 lead.
“Coach switched Hunter and I in the order, and it really calmed me,” Wagstaff said. “I just told myself to sit off-speed no matter what because I find myself ahead of the ball most of the time. It really took some pressure off me.”
That double from Wagstaff, who scored moments later on a Michael Palmer single, turned the momentum decisively in Ellsworth’s favor. Although the Crusaders finally scored in the sixth, the Eagles responded with hits from Devin Grindle, Burnett and Wagstaff and sacrifices by Tyler Mitchell and Hunter Curtis to stretch their lead to eight runs before Jackson Curtis sent John Bapst down in order to close out the game.
Ellsworth finished the game with 12 hits, seven of which came in the fifth and sixth innings. The Eagles’ seniors drove in seven of the team’s nine runs with four RBIs from Wagstaff and one apiece from Burnett, Grindle and Hughes.
On the mound, Jackson Curtis had 11 strikeouts and three walks on 101 pitches to improve to 3-0 on the season. Getting a solid outing from its No. 3 pitcher will allow Ellsworth to give each of its starters sufficient rest time as the regular season reaches the home stretch.
“Jackson is a different type of pitcher [than Matt and Conner], but he’s a very quality pitcher,” Ellsworth head coach Dan Curtis said. “A lot of teams would love to have someone like him as their No. 1 guy. For us, when guys like Matt and Conner see him go out and pitch really well, it makes them want to go out and do their jobs, too.”
Ellsworth’s next game will be on the road against No. 1 Hermon (13-0) tomorrow, May 23. The Eagles will then play road games against Old Town on Saturday, May 25, Washington Academy on Tuesday, May 28, and Mount Desert Island next Wednesday, May 29. All four games are set for 4:30 p.m. starts.
Senior Day marked the last regular season home game at Ellsworth High School for Ellsworth’s Burnett, Devin Grindle, Riley Grindle, Hughes, Wagstaff and Tyler Mitchell. The Eagles are likely play at least one more game on their home field come playoff time, but for a group that has now won 28 of its past 30 games dating back to last year, this day was still one worth savoring.
“To be able to come in here and play four years in high school for this program is something that none of us can ever take for granted,” Wagstaff said. “I wouldn’t want to have spent my four years for any other school or any other program anywhere.”