Pastime Club starter Hunter Richardson pitches against Hampden during the first round of the American Legion baseball state tournament at Husson University in Bangor on Saturday. Richardson pitched a complete-game shutout in the 1-0 win. (Lee Horton/Sun Journal)
BANGOR — Pastime didn’t let its struggles at the plate deter the Zone 2 champions Saturday afternoon against Hampden. Thirteen of the 18 outs were groundouts, but Pastime was able to scrape a single run across for a 1-0 win in the first round of the American Legion baseball state tournament at Husson University’s Winkin Complex.
Hunter Richardson took the mound in the top of the first for Pastime and struck out the first three batters on swinging strikes. The inning set the tone for the whole game, but even prior to the game, both Richardson and Pastime coach Jake Brown knew it would be a good performance from the ace.
“Right from the start, during warmups, I knew I was going to be locked in today. (Catcher Brock Belanger) said the same thing to me,” Richardson said. “I feel it’s just mostly the hot weather and it’s playoff time. I just tried to get down and it was go time. It felt good.”
Hits were hard to come by for both teams, especially Pastime, which was shut down by Hampden pitcher Derek Gendreau through three and two-thirds innings. Gendreau struck out two batters and the rest grounded out in that span, frustrating the Pastime hitters while keeping his team in the game.
“What I liked about it was the guys didn’t let their struggles at the plate carry on to their defense,” Brown said. “That’s what you see sometimes when you’re struggling at the plate, it gets in your head and you lose focus. I thought our guys knew there was a strikeout at the plate but then they focused on good defense.”
Hampden opened the second inning with two runners on via a walk and a single. Richardson was able to force two flyouts and a grounder to escape.
Richardson found himself in similar jams in the fourth and fifth innings, but was able to earn a strikeout to end each frame.
“I started gripping my fastball too hard and overthrowing too hard, but I relaxed and it worked out after that,” Richardson said.
In the bottom of the fifth, Pastime’s Evan Cox slapped a single into left for the team’s second and final hit of the game. Cox then stole second and moved to third on a fielder’s choice. Nick Lerette was up next and drove a ball into deep left field far enough for Cox to score the lone run on a sacrifice fly.
“I knew we were going to have to try to be a little aggressive and I thought one or two runs could do it today the way they’ve been going,” Brown said. “Nick Lerette did another good job to get that fly ball and Cox’s speed got him home. He got the steal and was able to move on the ground ball.”
While Pastime scraped together just two hits, its defense never faltered.
“I felt that throughout the team. I had the same at-bats as everyone else,” Richardson said. “We were hitting ground balls, but when you’re up there you’re realizing that you’re locked in but it’s not your day. It’s one of those things is you move on, don’t even worry about this game, it doesn’t matter, we got the win, keep the same approach moving forward.”
Hampden was set down in order in the sixth and seventh innings on just 20 pitches, something Brown was excited about heading into Pastime’s matchup against Coastal Landscape (Portland/Cheverus) on Sunday. Pitching efficiency can be critical in a state tournament that holds teams to pitch-count rules.
A group of teammates, led by Brock Belanger, Jack Leblond (2) and Lucas Francis (19) meet Pastime’s Evan Cox near the dugout after he scored the game’s only run in a 1-0 win over Hampden in the first round of the American Legion baseball state tournament at Husson University in Bangor on Saturday. (Lee Horton/Sun Journal)Pastime Club first baseman Nick Lerette tracks down the ball to get a force out at first base during the American Legion baseball state tournament at Husson University in Bangor on Saturday. (Lee Horton/Sun Journal)