DIXFIELD — Wednesday’s game between the top two teams in the MVC North had a little bit of everything, except a late comeback.
Derek Castonguay threw 6 1/3 strong innings before tiring and giving way to Willie Brown, who slammed the door with the tying run at the plate in a 4-1 Livermore Falls win over Dirigo at Harlow Park.
“I love getting the ball in a big game like this,” said Castonguay, who improved to 3-1 on the season. “I don’t know what it is. It just feels good to be out there and throw against one of the top teams in the MVC and get a win.”
Dirigo stranded a base runner in each of the first six innings and two in the seventh. Castonguay fanned seven and issued just one intentional walk before singles by Brodie Thompson and Tyler Gates brought the tying run to the plate and chased him from the game with one out in the seventh. Brown entered and struck out Tyler Chiasson, then got Ryan Lafleur to fly out to center to end the game.
“Near the end, I was getting a little worn out,” said Castonguay, who threw 95 pitches.
“After we let that one slip away up to Mountain Valley (a 5-4 loss last Friday), we were determined to finish this one,” Andies coach Brian Dube. “I thought Derek pitched well, but you could tell in the seventh he had lost his velocity. Willie came out and got it done.”
The game featured interference calls on a catcher and a base runner, a batter being called out for being struck by a ball after stepping out of the batters box, some sloppy defense and some outstanding defense.
“It was a good, solid game both ways,” Dirigo coach Dave Lafleur said. “They’re very athletic in the field. I’ve got to commend Castonguay. He pitched very well today, kept us off balance.”
The Cougars (6-2) got to Castonguay early. Spencer Ross started the first inning with a double and scored on Tyler Chiasson’s one-out single. They tried to keep pecking away, but the Andies (7-2) usually made a stellar defensive play or two to snuff any potential rallies.
In the third, shortstop Chandler White ran a long way to track down on a pop foul on the third base side. Second baseman Bryan Maurais then robbed Tyler Gates of a single with a diving stop on a grounder to his right. His throw to first was wide, but a falling Tom Ventrella somehow kept his foot on the bag for the out.
In the fifth, with the Andies up 2-1, Ross (two hits) singled and stole second to put the tying run in scoring position with two out. The Andies intentionally walked Chiasson, who had singled in each of his previous two at-bats, to put the go-ahead run on.
“I don’t know how many hits he had, but he had hit the ball hard a couple of times,” Dube said. “The funny thing is, the ump looks at me and he says, ‘You’re going to walk the potential tying run?’ I say, “Yes I am, sir.’ We figure we’d set up a force out and it worked.”
It worked because Lafleur was called out when the tapper he hit a couple of feet up the first base line stayed foul and struck him after he stepped out of the box.
Dave Guildford reached on a catcher’s interference to start Dirigo’s sixth, but Castonguay got out of trouble thanks to a terrific diving catch by White on an Arik Fenstermacher pop up behind third.
“Chandler was laying out for everything today. He was chasing down everything,” Castonguay said. “I don’t think we made any errors today.”
Eric Bolduc (seven innings, seven hits, four Ks, four walks, one intentional) did not enjoy the same defensive support, as the Cougars committed four errors, three of them critical. In the third, Bolduc issued back-to-back walks to start the inning. Brown hit a fly ball to right. Ventrella tagged at second and the relay throw to third hit him and rolled away, allowing James McLamb to advance from first to second. White then stroked a two-out single to score both and put the Andies up for good, 2-1.
In the fifth, Bolduc hurt his own cause with an errant pickoff throw to second that put runners at second and third with two out. After an intentional walk to White, Maurais singled to center to score McLamb, but a perfect throw from Fenstermacher in center nailed Brown at the plate by four feet.
“Eric pitched a gutsy game. It’s just that sometimes I have a tough time slowing him down,” Lafleur said. “He’s got a really fast pace and he gets really caught up in the moment.”
The Andies added insurance in the seventh thanks to another error. Ventrella led off the inning with a walk. Pinch-runner Andre Uter stole second and advanced to third when Lafleur’s throw sailed into center, then scored on McLamb’s fly to center.