BUCKFIELD – It was deja vu all over the field for Rangeley in Friday’s Western Class D baseball semifinal.

Just like last year, the third-seeded Lakers traveled to second-seeded Buckfield for the playoffs after being swept by the Bucks during the regular season. And just like last year, lefty Luke Hammond got the call on the hill for the Lakers.

And just like last year, the Lakers jumped on Buckfield for two runs in the top of the first inning. Unlike last year, though, Hammond was able to make those runs stand up and lead Rangeley to its second-straight regional championship game with a 2-1 victory.

Now the Lakers, who beat Buckfield 7-5 in last year’s semis before losing to Richmond, 6-2, in the final, will get a rematch with the unbeaten Bobcats on Tuesday at St. Joseph’s College.

Hammond allowed at least a baserunner in each inning but continuously frustrated Buckfield down to the last out, when he stranded Jamie Henderson, the potential tying run, at second. The Bucks left 10 men on base overall.

“Right down to the last out, he battled them,” Rangeley coach Mark Gordon said. “It was a little nerve-wracking.”

“I really needed to get my curve ball going because the off-speed pitches are key for me,” Hammond said. “My curve ball was breaking pretty well, and I was throwing pretty hard.”

Hammond’s opposite number, Buckfield starter Dan Danforth, was throwing pretty hard, too (nine strikeouts). But the Lakers (11-4) were able to get to him before he got settled in.

Ryan Gordon led off the game with a double. After a Hammond single, Ben Bliss (two hits) drove Gordon home and sent Hammond to third with a hit-and-run single. Kent Madeira followed and beat out a grounder to third. Hammond broke for the plate after the third baseman’s throw. The throw from first to home was wide, and Rangeley had all the runs it needed.

Danforth dominated the Lakers after that, fanning the next six batters and giving up just two hits and a walk the rest of the way. But the two-run cushion was enough for Hammond to patiently work out of some tight jams.

“Who doesn’t want to pitch with a lead?” Hammond said. “It wasn’t a big lead. We didn’t score again, but it’s definitely easier pitching with a lead than from behind or even with a tie.”

Buckfield (10-6) had at least one hit in each of the first five innings. They had runners picked off first in the first and fourth frames. They left men at second and third with two out in the second, then had a runner caught stealing and left the bases loaded in the third.

The Bucks finally got on the scoreboard in the fifth. Tony Fortier took a Hammond pitch in the back to start the inning. Fortier moved up to second on a passed ball, then to third on a grounder to second and scored their lone run on another ground out to second. Buckfield then loaded the bases with two out and tried to get the tying run in by sending Tyler Weymouth (three hits) on a straight steal of home with Dillon Emery at the plate. Emery was rung up on strikes by the home plate umpire, though, making the play at the plate moot.

Hammond (seven innings, eight hits, three Ks, three walks, two hit batters) worked around an error in the sixth, then retired the first two batters in the seventh, thanks to a nice diving catch by Madeira in center for the second out. Henderson (three hits) extended the inning with a deep double that Madeira couldn’t get to, but Hammond got Danforth to ground out to second to end it.

“We lost one starter, and we’re in the same exact situation as last year, going against Richmond with them undefeated,” Hammond said. “Our approach is going to be to play our game. If we play like we did today, hit the ball well, don’t make any errors, it should be a game.”


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