Windham’s Andrew Whiting pulled off the bunt half of a suicide squeeze in the fifth inning at Sanford Friday, while Tanner Laberge executed the dash off third. That one run is all the Eagles would need to edge past the Spartans, though they soon added two more nevertheless. 3-0 was the final in a low-key game.
The road win inched Windham to 1-0, a solid season start. Sanford’s defeat drops them to 1-1. The Spartans kicked off their own schedule with a 1-0 victory at Portland on April 23.
“They’ve got a good ball club,” Windham head coach Brody Artes said, “much improved from last year. We knew that they were young – similar to us.”
“I know it’s the old cliché,” Sanford head coach Mark Boissonneault said, “but give [Windham starter Spencer Hodge] a lot of credit. He kept us off-balance.”
“I was a little sketchy, coming in,” said Hodge. “I didn’t know how I was going to throw, first game. I didn’t want to go out and act like I was going to throw strikes every single pitch, but I managed.”
Play stayed static through four, neither team logging a hit. That all changed in the fifth, however when Zach Alpern opened the inning with a sudden double into center. Josh Dugas stepped in to run for him, and Laberge stepped into the box. He walked, and out of the blue the Eagles had two men on.
Alex Loftis followed Laberge to the plate. During his swings, Dugas got caught stealing – attempting to steal, rather – third, sapping some of Windham’s oomph. Loftis got it back though, and more, with his own double into center; Laberge held at third and the Eagles went from two men on to two men in scoring position.
Whiting at the bat for the suicide squeeze – a risky maneuver, especially in a tie game. As the pitch unfurled toward him, he knelt in for a bunt and Laberge bounded off the third base bag. The throw to first flew errant, Laberge scored, Loftis scored and Whiting got to second standing – all on a lowly bunt.
“A little off today,” Artes said of the Eagles’ consistency at the plate. “Our goal is always to make sure we get runners on and make sure we move them around, whether it’s with a bunt, or a ground-out or a base-hit. Andrew had a great suicide squeeze that opened the floodgates for us a little bit.
“Andrew’s one of the best bunters on the team, and he’s had experience [with the suicide squeeze]. We have a lot of faith in him; he’s a senior that has experience playing varsity. He wanted to do it. He came out to me and said, ‘Let’s do this,’ and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ ”
Whiting stole third on Ethan Petty’s at-bat, and Jack Butts’s single grounder into center brought him home again for 3-0.
Boissonneault then swapped starter Eddie Michetti, who so far had maintained his composure on the mound but was perhaps beginning to lose focus or feel fatigued, for reliever Mike Revisi. Revisi closed out the fifth without further loss of life or limb, and then it was the Spartans’ turn to threaten.
They didn’t, though – not in the bottom of the fifth, anyway, when they went one-two-three. But they controlled Windham through the top of the sixth and earned themselves another chance, one they looked to take full advantage of, in the bottom of the sixth.
Lead-off Spartan Jimmy Parks singled into right and moved on to second when No. 2 hitter Chase Xavier also belted a single, this one to center. Any momentum the team had built quickly evaporated, however, as Hodge presently K-ed Tyler Flayhan looking, Jed Scott swinging and Brandon Wambolt looking.
“He started a little slow,” Artes said of Hodge, “got behind some batters in the first inning, but
I thought he did a really good job settling in. His breaking stuff was excellent today. As the game progressed, he kept getting sharper and sharper.”
Hodge had a no-hitter going into the sixth, a potentially distracting fact he managed to ignore. “It was in the back of my mind at one point, but then I was like, ‘No…I probably shouldn’t think about that right now. I should just throw.’ ”
“The times that we needed to swing the bat and be aggressive, we didn’t do it,” said Boissonneault of his batting order’s tendency to strike out looking. “But the great thing about baseball is there’s always tomorrow.
“I love this team, I love the attitudes of this team; they work hard. I can’t complain about that.”
The game largely sank back into a lull from there. Eagle Ethan Petty got a little overeager on his top-seventh pound into deep, deep right-center; he should’ve settled for third, but drove for the inside-the-park homerun – and got caught out at home. Still, Windham had all they needed, and walked away satisfied.
Windham travels to Gorham (0-1) Thursday, May 1, for a 4 p.m. duel. Sanford hosts Deering (0-2) on the same day, at the same time.
“I actually feel really confident about us this season, to be honest,” Hodge said. “The bats have really surprised us; we’ve got some underclassmen who can really swing it, and [Loftis, who stepped into pitch in the seventh] has never really pitched before and he’s doing great. As a team, we’re all good to each other.”
Windham Junior Zach Alpern lets a pitch go during the Eagles’ 3-0 road win over Sanford Friday morning.Sanford starter Eddie Michetti eyeballs home during the Spartans’ battle with Windham Friday morning.The Spartans – excluding their catcher and incoming reliever – line up near second, where Windham baserunner Jack Butts anchors one foot firmly on the bag.Eagles first baseman Zach Alpern can’t quite reach a fly-foul ball.Sanford senior Jimmy Parks just beats Windham first baseman Zach Alpern’s tag.Spartan Jimmy Parks (11) narrowly gets second on a base hit into center by teammate Tyler Flayhan (8).Windham starter Spencer Hodge gets a little late-game coaching. Hodge struck out nine in the Eagles’ road win over Sanford.Sanford’s Jed Scott steps to the plate.Windham reliever Alex Loftis jogs off the field after cinching an Eagles’ 3-0 victory.Eagles catcher Tanner Laberge grabs a backwards fly.