OLD ORCHARD BEACH — For one Gayton hitter after another, getting on base turned into a dead end in Friday’s Northeast Regional elimination game, and so its season met the same fate.

Gayton Post 31 left 14 runners on base and fell to Whitestown, N.Y., 6-1, at The Ballpark, dropping out of of the regional after two games. Gayton finished its season at 26-3. Whitestown improved to 25-9 and will play Saturday in the double-elimination tournament.

Gayton’s offense, which averaged 11 runs during the Zone 3 season and through its second straight state title, sputtered with runners on base in the regional. On Thursday, it stranded nine in a 7-2 loss to Norwalk, Conn. Against Whitestown, it marooned 11 in scoring position and stranded at least one in every inning.

“I think we were a little bit intimidated. I don’t know why,” Gayton catcher Mekae Hyde said when asked to explain his team’s lack of timely hitting. “Ultimately, I think we were one of the best teams here, but we just didn’t show it, and that’s disappointing.”

Part of Gayton’s downfall was its lack of power. After slugging .679 during the regular season, it managed just two extra base hits, both doubles, in the tournament. On Friday, only two of its eight hits — a Corbin Hyde double and a Trey Ouellette single — made it out of the infield.

“I think the theme is that we pressed,” Gayton coach Todd Cifelli said. “You can’t try harder in baseball. You’ve just got to trust yourself and stick to your approach that you’ve done the whole time.”

Poor approaches at the plate and bad luck dogged Gayton at various points in the game.

Things quickly went from promising to frustrating in the first inning, when Alex Parker and Mekae Hyde reached on infield singles with one out. They moved up to second and third on a wild pitch and stolen base with two out, but Whitestown starter Matt Engler snagged a Scott Ouellette bouncer back to the mound to end that threat.

Jeff Keene reached on an error to lead off the second, moved to second on Trey Ouellette’s bunt and to third on a passed ball with one out. After Engler struck out Joe Sullivan looking, he caught a break when his wild pitch to Nate Berube ricocheted off the backstop and directly back to catcher Brent Sloma. Keene took a couple of steps home, but had no choice but to retreat to third. He ended up stranded there when Engler caught Berube looking at strike three.

Whitestown left 13 runners on base, but it used some aggressive base running to strike first against Gayton starter Corbin Hyde. Ryan Watson led off the second with a single then stole second. His attempt at third resulted in a throwing error by Mekae Hyde, allowing him to score the first run. After two strikeouts and a single by Sloma, Corbin Hyde temporarily lost his command. He walked the next two batters then uncorked a wild pitch that plated Sloma for a 2-0 lead.

Gayton finally scored in the third, yet continued to heighten its own frustration in the process. Cote and Sullivan started it off with back-to-back bunt singles. Engler hit Mekae Hyde, then walked Corbin Hyde to score Cote and keep the bases loaded with none out. Gayton had to settle for the one run, however, as Engler fanned Scott Ouellette, retired Keene on a pop foul to first and then struck out Trey Ouellette on a 3-2 off-speed pitch.

Hyde emerged unscathed from a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the fourth, but his pitch count was rapidly approaching 100 by the end of the inning. He gave up an RBI single to Mike Sullivan that made it 3-1 in the sixth, then was lifted after 130 pitches in six innings (3 runs, 7 hits, 5 walks, 6 strikeouts).

“We worried about his pitch count when they were fouling so many balls off,” Cifelli said. “But I think he did a great job for us.”

“We’ve played a lot of baseball,” Mekae Hyde said. “I know it’s had an affect on me catching. I mean, my legs are sore. I think the pitchers are feeling it, too, in their arms and their legs.”

Engler accumulated a high pitch count yet managed to last eight innings on the mound despite surrendering seven hits, three walks, two wild pitches and two hit batsmen. He struck out eight, relying on his breaking ball when he needed to find the strike zone.

“I was struggling early, especially since the umps weren’t giving me anything,” he said. “I’ve pitched in a lot of big games. I just knew I had to keep my cool out there.”

Gayton put the tying runs on with one out in the seventh, but Keene hit a screaming line drive right at third baseman Dan Smith, who threw to second to double-up a helpless Mekae Hyde.

Dylan Gorski, who came off the bench to get two hits for Whitestown, stroked a two-run single off Cote, who relieved Hyde in the seventh. Engler, who had three hits to lead Whitestown, capped the scoring with an RBI single in the eighth.

Cote led Gayton with three hits while Parker chipped in with two hits. Mekae Hyde reached base four times with two walks, a hit and a hit-by-pitch.

“We definitely accomplished something very special (this season),” Mekae Hyde said. “We’re now in the category of Nova (Seafood, as a repeat state champion), which is very good because they’re national champs (in 2004). We didn’t do what we wanted to do in the regionals this year, but we won two state championships and that’s a lot.”


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