AUBURN — In baseball, the curveball giveth and the curveball taketh away. It did both for Edward Little’s Jarod Norcross Plourde, and it made for a pair of crucial moments in the Red Eddies’ 3-1 KVAC baseball win over Lewiston at Austin Field on Friday.

Norcross Plourde collected one of the Red Eddies’ (15-1) three hits off a curveball, then later scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the fourth inning. In the top of the seventh, he went to the curveball on the mound to close out the win and earn the save.

Though the game pitted two longtime rivals against each other, the matchup didn’t look close on paper. EL was playing for a top seed in the Class A North playoffs, while the Blue Devils (4-12) were playing for last-ditch effort to qualify for the postseason.

Instead, Lewiston got one, last effort out of senior pitcher Brady Cusson. The right-hander walked Austin Cox to lead off the bottom of the first, then Cox stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. Cusson walked Drew Lashua as well, and Norcross Plourde drove in Cox with a sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead.

Cusson settled down and pitched a relatively quiet second and third.

“He bounced back, he minimized,” Lewiston coach Will Emerson said of Cusson.

Then Norcross Plourde stepped to the plate to lead off the fourth and didn’t waste any time, lining a double down the third-base line on the first pitch he saw.

“Curveball inside. He threw me that in the first inning,” Norcross Plourde said. “I just turned on it this time.”

Brandon Varney followed with a bunt to move Norcross Plourde to third and Grant Hartley drew a walk. Kyle Romero sacrifice bunted Norcross Plourde in, the CJ Jipson singled in Hartley.

“I thought the guys did a great job of executing,” EL coach Dave Jordan said of his team utilizing a small-ball strategy. “We’ve practiced it a lot this year. We haven’t actually done it a lot. We went through a stretch where we were putting up double-digit runs for a while.”

Those two runs gave the Red Eddies the lead back after the Blue Devils scored their lone run of the game in the top of the fourth off Varney. Evan Cox led off with a walk, then Hunter Landry beat out a double-play ball to keep a runner on with just one out. Austin Wing doubled to the left-center gap to bring home Landry with the tying run.

That was one of just two hits Varney gave up, and it was followed by eight straight batters retired to end the senior’s outing on the mound. Varney struck out five and walked two.

Norcross Plourde took over for the potential save in the top of the seventh.

“Brandon was throwing well. I think we probably could have closed it out with Brandon,” Jordan said. “I thought they were getting some decent at-bats on him.”

Jordan also had one eye toward the playoffs, looking to see how a starter like Norcross Plourde would do if thrust into a relief role. One batter in things were OK, with Cox making a diving catch from his shortstop position to rob Wing on a low liner.

Then Norcross Plourde started to struggle, walking Gordon Beckwith and Cusson and allowing them both to get into scoring position with a wild ptich.

A meeting at the mound with Jordan and the infield seemed to calm Norcross Plourde down. A little adjustment to his strategy helped too.

“Threw the curveball. That really saved me there, because I couldn’t find the fastball,” Norcross Plourde said.

Eddie Turgeon struck out swinging, with Varney at catcher throwing down to Ben Harris at first for the out. Jared Rubin then struck out looking to end the game.

“Looking at pitches with two strikes is something that I think has been our biggest struggle this year. We have to be hungry at the plate,” Emerson said. “We just can’t be leaving runners in scoring position like we were with strikeouts looking.”

Jordan, who used to coach at Lewiston, said he wasn’t surprised that his team was in for a battle in a rivalry game that served as the regular-season finale for both teams.

“This time of year teams are playing for pride, they’re playing for playoffs, they’re playing for potentially the last game that they’re going to play in organized baseball,” Jordan said. “You expect to have a great effort from everybody you play. And (Lewiston) did.”

The game marked the end of Emerson’s first season at the helm of the Blue Devils, who only graduate Cusson and Wing.

“Last game of the season, rival, EL under the lights. Of course, guys are fired up. On the other side, they got to be like that for every game. We should have came out like that for every game this season,” Emerson said. “I think the young guys took a lot away from this game. I’m excited for the future.”

Edward Little’s future is the Class A North playoffs. The Red Eddies will be one of the top two seeds in the bracket, and could be No. 1 overall if Bangor loses its season finale next week.

NOTE: Proceeds from the baseball and softball rivalry games Friday brought in more than $1,300 dollars to be split between the Josh Titus Fund and the Mike Giroux Scholarship Fund. The Central Maine Board of Umpires also donated $320 to the Giroux Fund.

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