FARMINGTON – Homecoming is a rite of autumn and football, but the Mt. Blue High School baseball team might feel justified in bringing that tradition to the diamond this spring.
The Cougars feel as if they’ve spent the entire month of May either playing sporadic road games or practicing in their own gymnasium to avoid the torrential rain outside.
It’s no wonder that a rare sunny afternoon and an even rarer date at Hippach Field got off to a sputtering start. The first of four home games in six days finished fabulously, however, with the Cougars scoring three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning Monday to trip Gardiner, 4-1, in a battle of playoff-bound Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference rivals.
Steve Wells and Adam Gilbert triggered the rally for Mt. Blue (7-5) with back-to-back singles. Wells later scored the winning run when Gardiner (7-5) botched the throw to first on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Hal Robbins.
Gilbert crossed the plate on Justin Lowe’s sharp single, and Robbins raced home on a wild pitch. That represented ample support for Mt. Blue ace Gilbert, who allowed a Kyle Stilphen single in the seventh but didn’t let the Tigers send the potential tying run to the plate.
“Adam hasn’t had too many 1-2-3 innings this year, but he’s won a big game for us in three consecutive weeks,” said Mt. Blue coach Gary Parlin.
Walks, wind and miscues allowed each team to score a run in the second inning.
Nick Godfrey’s well-struck single and breeze-blown base hits by Roland Kennerson and Devon Brown set the table for Will Phelps’ bases-loaded walk for the Tigers. Lowe answered for the Cougars by drawing a one-out walk, stealing second with a nifty hook slide, charging to third on a wild pitch and then home when the catcher’s errant throw sailed into left field.
Gardiner threatened repeatedly throughout the middle innings, but it was the start of a trend when the Tigers left the bases loaded in the second. Gilbert stranded 10 runners in all, six in scoring position.
“Coach is always talking to me about how to pitch in different situations, and I guess I’ve actually listened and learned something,” Gilbert said. “My teammates came up when it counted in the clutch. It gives us a little confidence to be on kind of a roll.”
Prior to the sixth, the Cougars mustered only a pair of infield singles off Gardiner’s strong-armed Stilphen. Wells hustled out a hit in the first inning and Robbins led off the fourth with another.
Stilphen got out of a bases-loaded jam after a Wells’ hit and two free passes by striking out Mike Toothaker to end the first. He whiffed 10 and walked three.
On the flip side, Gilbert induced groundballs from almost everyone, and the Cougars helped his cause by committing only one error. Gilbert walked four and fanned three.
Mt. Blue’s reshuffled itinerary includes home contests with Oxford Hills today, Cony on Wednesday and Saturday against Edward Little.
“Any game day is a good day,” Parlin said. “I’ve spent way too much time indoors in May.”