DIXFIELD — Any pitcher four days removed from throwing a no-hitter would be forgiven for sticking with what worked for him when he next toed the rubber.
But Telstar had seen Arik Fenstermacher before, even had gotten some hits against the Dirigo southpaw back in late April.
Getting runs off of him had been a different story, but Fenstermacher wasn’t going to take anything for granted when two of the top teams in the Mountain Valley Conference met again on Friday.
Fenstermacher made the adjustments he needed to make and let his flawless defense and timely offense take care of the rest in a 4-1 victory on a picture perfect day for baseball at Harlow Park.
After no-hitting rival Mountain Valley on Monday, Fenstermacher (seven IP, six hits, eight Ks, two walks) gave up a hit in six of the seven innings he tossed Friday. But he changed speeds effectively, kept the Rebels guessing and kept the top of their order off base to improve the defending state champion Cougars’ record to 9-0.
“I had to pull out a couple of more tricks today,” Fenstermacher said with a grin. “I mixed it up a little bit more. I felt like I was doing better with the top of their order because I had seen them more before. The bottom of their order was surprising me with their hits. I was getting off-location and not really getting the spots I wanted.”
“Fenstermacher’s pitched against us in 14 innings and we’ve scored two runs,” said Telstar coach Bob Remington, whose team dropped to 7-2, the only losses coming against Dirigo and Fenstermacher. “He knows what he’s doing. You can see it — fastball one speed, fastball another speed. Curve ball one speed, curve ball another speed. He mixes, he locates, he reads hitters and knows where he can get them.”
Remington said the Rebels hoped Fenstermacher would be a little tired after the no-hitter, and he showed some fatigue early. He worked around a Dan Whitney double in the first, then walked the first two hitters of the second. Drew Wilson drove in Cory Howard to make it 1-0.
“I was struggling in the stretch. I wasn’t happy to be in the stretch in the first place,” Fenstermacher said. “I had to calm myself down and get the ball down in the strike zone. I think I threw eight consecutive balls in the same place and wasn’t adjusting quick enough. What really helped today was our defense making the plays when they needed to.”
The Cougars turned a 4-6-3 double play to help him erase a one-out Whitney single in the third.
The offense was able to take better advantage of its opportunities against Telstar starter Kyle Peterson(4.1 innings, four runs, two earned, seven hits, three Ks). T.J. Frost (two hits) belted a two-out double to drive in Cody St. Germain (two hits) and tie the game in the second. Justin Conant put Dirigo in front with a sacrifice fly in the third.
“I’m very, very pleased with the bottom of our order,” Dirigo coach Ryan Palmer said. “T.J. Frost in the nine hole, he’s in the top three in batting average on the team. He’s been doing a phenomenal job.”
The bottom third of Telstar’s order — Wilson, Casey Thornton and Nick Mills, had success, too, each getting a hit, as did No. 3 hitter Whitney (2-for-3). But Fenstermacher mitigated their damage by getting the top of the lineup — T.J. O’Connor and Peterson — to go a combined 0-for-7.
“We all have hit against him over two games,” Remington said. “Today it was 7-8-9 that got the hits. Howard got a hit in the five spot and Whitney got two hits . He just doesn’t allow you to string anything together.”
Fenstermacher got some insurance in the fifth thanks to three Rebel errors that put runners at first and third with nobody out. Ben Holmes (3-for-3) made it 3-1 with an RBI single. Conant drove in the final run on another sacrifice fly.
“That’s been the key to our season, getting those extra runs, whether we’re up by big or small amounts,” Fenstermacher said. “Just being able to come in and know that you have your team at your back and working hard for you is great.”
Perhaps bolstered by the extra breathing room, Fenstermacher worked his only 1-2-3 inning in the sixth, striking out the first two hitters working. Thornton touched him for the Rebels’ sixth hit in the seventh, but Fenstermacher struck out the last two batters of the game.