Evan Harmer, a senior, making his first varsity start as a pitcher after starting at catcher for three seasons, allowed just two runs on five hits over six-plus innings, and sophomore Zack Mann one-upped him in his first varsity appearance, tossing three innings of no-hit relief to help lead Gray-New Gloucester to a 3-2, nine-inning win over rival Poland on Wednesday.

“I was a little nervous, seeing that Poland is such a rival,” Mann said. “I just had to stay calm and stay out there.”

Mann not only got things done on the bump, but also at the plate. Exuding the patience of a varsity athlete with twice the experience, Munn stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. He watched five pitches — four of the balls — tossed his bat to the ground and trotted to first as teammate Thomas Wood strolled home from third with the game-winning run. Wood led a charge of Patriots up the first-base line to greet Mann, swarming the sophomore with hugs and high-fives.

“I was just expecting strikes,” Mann said. “I was expecting the corners, and the fist two were outside. It was pretty shocking.”

Wood started the ninth with a single. He was on his way to second on a stolen base attempt with JT Magno at the plate, but he drew a walk to put a pair of runners on base.

“When the first two guys got on, the strategy was we’re going to bunt them over,” Gray-New Gloucester coach Brad Smith said, “and then squeeze the other one home.”

Instead, the Patriots remained patient. John-Henry Villanueva drew another walk to load the bases, setting up another chance for Gray-New Gloucester to try a squeeze play.

But a Poland pitching change again altered the Patriots’ thinking.

“It’s tough to squeeze when you’re not sure about control, and we were seeing a new pitcher,” Smith said. “It was in our favor, we had an extra out to spend, so if it didn’t work with Zack, hopefully it was going to work with Dalton, our pinch-hitter and one of our better bunters.”

Mann made sure there was no “if.”

“The same thing happened during a scrimmage last week,” Smith said. “A kid comes on in relief, shuts it down, and he ends up at bat with a runner on second and gets a base hit. So he got the win, and he got the winning RBI.”

The loss was another in a series of tough setbacks for Poland.

“That’s been the frustrating thing,” Poland coach Mike Connor said. “Every game we’ve been in, it’s been just little things that are holding us back. This was a one-run game, Yarmouth was a one-run game, Kennebunk was a three-run game. Those kinds of games, you have to execute, you have to get the bunt down, you have to move runners over.

“We squandered way too many chances early,” Connor added. “Bases loaded here, getting infield pop-ups on hitters’ counts … it’s just little things like that. They executed small things and we didn’t. Popping up bunts and getting doubled off. Just, little things.”

The Patriots scored the first two runs of the game in the bottom of the third. Tyler St. Pierre singled with one out and stole a pair of bases. Wood singled to plate St. Pierre, stole second and took third on a wild pitch. Wood then scampered home as Magno got caught in a rundown between first and second after a walk.

“We’re not known for getting a lot of base hits,” Smith said. “What we try to do is maximize base-running opportunities.”

The Knights finally broke through in the top of the sixth. Adam Mocciola singled and stole second. He scored on an Austin Love double to left field. Evan Gallagher replaced Love as a pinch runner and scored on a Ben Bernier single.

“The core is young guys, and they didn’t fold, they stayed right in it,” Connor said. “We got the two across, and not one senior out of that group that scored the runs. We have a way to go yet, but we need to cut down on the mistakes.”

Bernier, Poland’s starter, throwing 105 pitches over seven full innings. He finished with two runs allowed on four hits with nine strikeouts and three walks in the no-decision.

“He pitched great,” Connor said. “(105 pitches) wasn’t by design. They told me about mid-6 that he was at 82. I was like, ‘all right, we can probably squeeze another one-and-a-half or two out of him.’ He felt fine and he went back out. I asked after the seventh and he was at 100-whatever it was, and he had to come out.”

Isaiah Dubois took the ball in the eighth and set the Patriots down 1-2-3. Mann did likewise to the Knights in the top of the ninth, benefiting from a double play after fielding a popped-up bunt.

Dubois ran into trouble in the ninth, allowing a single and a pair of walks before Ethan Cailler relieved him for the final batter of the game.

“Both teams deserved to win,” Smith said. “We’re still very young, and so are they. This was a great game.”


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