Oxford Hills’ Jonny Pruett leaps into the air to avoid the tag out by Messalonskee’s catcher Carter Lambert during Tuesday’s game in Lewiston. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

LEWISTON — When a baseball team hasn’t been outside for two weeks before playing its first countable game, style points go out the window as long as that game goes into the win column.

Oxford Hills was happy to take the ‘W’after holding off Messalonskee, 3-2, in both teams’ KVAC baseball opener at a blustery Joseph Deschenes Field on Tuesday.

“We just play hard-nosed baseball and do what we have to do,” said Oxford Hills starting pitcher Wyatt Williamson, who picked up the win with 6 2/3 solid innings. “It was tight today but we had it.”

The game was moved to Lewiston High School’s new artificial turf field due to unplayable field conditions at Gouin Athletic Complex.

Trailing 3-1 in the top of the seventh against Williamson, the Eagles cut the deficit in half after a pair of Viking errors and Carter Lambert’s one-out RBI single. Center fielder Cam Slicer likely saved the tying run from scoring from first by cutting the ball off in the gap, forcing runner Jacob Perry to hold up at third.

“They got a nice hit,” Oxford Hills coach Shane Slicer said, “but Cameron knocking that thing down in center field was huge.”

“In this weather, to get out of here with a ‘W,’ we’ll take it,” he added.

After a pitch to the backstop put runners at second and third, an intentional walk to Ben Hellen loaded the bases. Williamson got the second out of the inning with a high fastball that Jacob Bentinen swung at and missed.

Having reached the 110-pitch mark, Williamson had to be lifted, by rule, for reliever/shortstop Janek Luksza, who got ahead of Mason Violette, 0-2, before inducing a ground ball to his replacement at short, Ethan Cutler. Cutler’s throw was low, but first baseman Ashton Kennison made a nice stretch and scoop to secure it for the final out.

“We gave ourselves a chance at the end there, which is all you can ask for,” Messalonskee coach Ray Bernier said. “We didn’t get that big hit. That’s the difference of being a mature team and a team that wasn’t quite mature yet. Their team got the big hit when they needed it.”

Relying almost exclusively on his fastball, Williamson allowed three hits, one earned run and four walks and hit three batters while striking out nine.

Williamson had only one 1-2-3 inning, the fourth, but he kept the ball on the ground (10 ground ball outs, one fly ball out), which his fielders certainly appreciated.

“He went right after them. I thought he threw well,” Shane Slicer said. “When he was missing, it wasn’t by much. He was right around the plate. He didn’t lose velocity. He built his arm strength up all winter. We let him go a little bit longer today knowing we have a bye next week and knowing he’s going to have some rest.”

“It was super windy today and it was tough throwing the curve ball. I was feeling comfortable with the fastball, so I went with it,” Williamson said. “The wind was tough, especially in the first couple of innings.”

Both starting pitchers seemed to have trouble adjusting to the elements and some opening-day jitters early. Dylan Cunningham led off the game with a triple to right and scored on Perry’s groundout to second. Williamson then hit Lambert and Hellen with pitches, but settled down with a strikeout and groundout to keep the score 1-0.

“There was a little bit of nerves, but mostly I think it was the wind playing a huge factor,” Williamson said. “We settled in as a team and had a couple of good innings at the plate. That helped.”

James Smith, Williamson’s counterpart for the Eagles, also struggled with control in the first inning, walking two and allowing a Kennison single to load the bases with two outs. Cade Truman singled Rodney Bean home with the tying run, but the Vikings couldn’t do any more damage and left the bases loaded.

Smith and relievers Evan DeMott and Andrew Mayo combined to strand a dozen Oxford Hills baserunners in six innings.

“Guys did a good job of bearing down and making the right pitch to hold them down,” Bernier said. “We just didn’t have enough offensively. Playing a team like Oxford Hills the first game out, it kind of sets the bar. You have to get after it. But first game out, being a one-run game, I’m definitely not discouraged with the guys at all.”

After leaving a runner at third in the second and two more runners on in the third, Oxford Hills finally broke through with a pair of runs in the fourth against DeMott. Two walks set up Bean’s one-out RBI single to the opposite field, scoring Jonny Pruett for a 2-1 lead. Slicer scored on a Luksza groundout to second to make it 3-1.

Oxford Hills pitcher Wyatt Williamson gets the ball over to first baseman Aston Kennison as Messalonskee’s Miles Hammond slides back to first base during Tuesday’s game in Lewiston. (Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn)

Oxford Hills’ Wyatt Williamson fires a pitch to home plate during Tuesdays game between Oxford Hills and Messalonskee in Lewiston. (Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn)

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