TURNER — After his team had played its first game — and earned its first victory — in its new conference, Leavitt baseball coach Dave Bochtler evaluated his Hornets’ instant success in the Class B division of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference thusly:
“I don’t know if we’ll be able to sneak up on people,” he said.
Surely the Hornets, who won three games last year in the first year of Bochtler’s rebuilding plan, will make their new league take notice with Friday’s 4-1 win over Oak Hill in their 2010 season opener.
Leavitt took advantage of a couple of fielding mistakes by the Raiders and held on behind a fine pitching performance from senior ace Shawn Berry, who settled down after giving up a first-inning home run and surrendered just three hits while fanning nine and walking four in six innings.
“It’s a big, big win,” Berry said. “In prior years in our program, we’d just have one win every year, so to get this win out of the way, it’s very nice.”
“I told the guys if we get a quality start and we play good defense, we’re going to so aggressive on the bases that we’re going to put pressure on those guys, and that’s what happened,” Bochtler said. “They had a lot of unforced errors just because we’re so aggressive ont the bases.”
Three of the Hornets’ four runs were unearned. The first two came on one error in the third. With runners at second and third and one out, Jake Ouellette hit a tapper back to the mound. Oak Hill starter Tim Levesque turned toward third, where Leavitt’s Zach Frost stood about 10-feet off the bag. Levesque decided he had a shot at him and threw to third, but the ball and Ouellette arrived at the same time, causing the ball to deflect of third baseman Cody Fortier’s glove and bounce out of play. That meant not only Frost could score, but Isaiah Wright, the runner at second, was awarded the plate as well.
“You can’t win many games scoring one run, and we let a couple slip away from us on errors,” Oak Hill coach Chad Drouin said. “I saw some promising things on the mound.”
Levesque, Josh Prue and Adam Soucy combined to limit the Hornets to just two hits through the first five innings, but Leavitt managed to scratch out another run in the fourth when Prue, who was catching before relieving Levesque, blocked a ball in the dirt with Tim Dow at second. Prue kept the ball in front of him, but Dow still broke for third, drawing a throw from Prue that skidded into left field and allowed Dow to score to make it 3-1.
The Hornets added their fourth run off Soucy in the sixth when Matt Bilodeau doubled and scored on Jason Fisher’s single.
Brett Turcotte took Berry deep to left on a 2-2 pitch with two out in the first for the Raiders’ only run.
“I just left a fastball up in the zone,” he said. “I should have given him something else to hit with two strikes like a curve ball or change-up. I’d say after I gave that up I wanted to come back and prove myself.”
Berry, helped out by some solid, errorless defense, particularly by Kevin Theiss behind the plate, worked around a walk and single in each of the next two innings before settling into a groove where he retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced.
“Even though he gave up that bomb, he knew he had good stuff tonight,” Bochtler said. “Shawn is one of those kids that if he’s confident, he’s good. I really like how he pitched in the sixth inning. He was tired. The longest he’d gone in preseason was three (innings), and he was out there with 97 pitches.”
“I don’t think our approach at the plate was terrible today. I just don’t think we put great swings on the ball,” Drouin said.
Sophomore Jake Irish came on to close it in the seventh and allowed a couple of walks to bring the tying run to the plate with one out, but he got Cody Plourde to ground into a fielder’s choice and Turcotte to ground back to the mound.