LEWISTON — Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc said his team didn’t scout Lewiston heading into Saturday’s Class A North semifinal baseball showdown, but he knew the Blue Devils had been on a hot streak.
River Hawks pitcher Cam Green received early run support and Lewiston didn’t turn enough base runners into runs as sixth-seeded Skowhegan snapped the second-seeded Lewiston’s 14-game winning streak with a 5-2 victory.
Skowhegan will face Bangor on Tuesday in the Class A North final at Morton Field in Augusta.
“I wanted to go out there and throw strikes, rely on my fielders, and I know they can get it done,” Green said. “When we came out and put up some runs and gave me some insurance, I said, ‘Well, I gotta get it done now.’”
Skowhegan’s offense quickly got to work in the first, starting with Tyler Annis’ single. Hunter McEwen and Brendan Dunlap walked to load the bases for Cam Louder, who hit a single that scored the game’s first two runs. Ben Morgan then reached base after a third strike was misplayed, scoring McEwen to make to give the River Hawks an early 3-0 lead.
“We just played our game, how we normally play, and if things fall our way, they fall our way,” LeBlanc said. “Just make sure you have productive at-bats. Every out has to be a productive out.”
Green then took the mound in the bottom of the first and quickly calmed his nerves by putting down Lewiston in order with only seven pitches.
“It helped me a lot,” Green said. “My nerves pretty much went away after that and I was able to settle in.”
Lewiston starting pitcher Keegan McLaughlin made quick work of the River Hawks in the second, using just 11 pitches to get three outs, but Skowhegan came roaring back in the third.
McEwen walked and stole second base, then was driven home by Dunlap’s double down the first-base line to make it 4-0. Louder doubled in the next at-bat and brought home Dunlap, extending the River Hawks’ lead to 5-0.
While Skowhegan was scoring five runs in three innings, Lewiston stranded five base runners. The Blue Devils left a total 10 runners on base in the game.
“In my opinion, all year, the only thing we did uncharacteristically was we hit a lot of fly balls,” Lewiston coach Darren Hartley said. “We stranded a lot of runners, and we have stranded a lot in eight or so games this year, but we strand them by hitting line drives, grounders, but we haven’t hit fly balls to strand guys in a month.”
The Blue Devils left three runners on base in the third but did score a run back when Daxton St. Hilaire drew a one-out walk and reached second on a balk. Later in the inning, Andon Cox singled St. Hilaire home to cut Skowhegan’s lead to 5-1.
McLaughlin pitched a near-flawless fourth inning, allowing only one base runner, due to an error on a throw to first. Hartley was proud of the senior’s outing.
“Keegan stepped in and became our number two pitcher, and I was going to try to get him between 84 and 94 pitches and he hit 92,” Hartley said. “He did exactly what I expected him to do. He’s a grinder, a leader. … It was a damn good outing.”
The Blue Devils stranded two more base runners in the fourth thanks to Green keeping them off balance and off rhythm.
“Playoff baseball is a vice, and it tightens and tightens,” Hartley said. “We stranded a couple runners in the middle innings where maybe if we get a crooked number early maybe the guys build on that, but it didn’t happen and I want to credit Coach Leblanc and the pitcher, the Green kid, he was just enough off balance to keep us off time.”
In the fifth, McLaughlin drove home Cox with a deep triple, making the score 5-2, but got stuck at third.
Brandon Farinas came in and pitched the final three innings for Lewiston and gave up only two hits.
“Farinas, I just gave him a new nickname. His nickname is ‘The Slayer,’” Hartley said. “Brandon is no different than his older brother. He throws strikes, he changes speeds on almost every pitch, he will be as competent a number two pitcher as in any program anywhere in the state, and I told him that. Brandon is a very special cat.”
Skowhegan stranded a runner on third in both the fifth and sixth innings.
“We knew they were a good team, well-coached, and on a hot streak,” LeBlanc said. “We knew they score late. I told them that’s why I wasn’t too happy with our two third-base squandering opportunities. We competed and made the plays.”
Green exited the game after he pitched 110 pitches midway through the sixth. Lewiston had two batters reach base in the sixth but couldn’t plate a runner.