Grady Vanidestine found himself in the toughest jam of the game in the seventh inning on Wednesday, with Ellsworth base runners on both second and third base.
The Brewer pitcher had given up just one hit all game during the opening at bat to Ellsworth’s Miles Palmer, who was picked off almost immediately at first base. Brady Kenny reached with one out in the seventh on an infield single for the Eagles and then Hunter Boles reached on an error.
Vanidestine forced a groundout and then struck out Billy Garland for his 13th strikeout to earn the 2-0 victory for the Witches at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
It was his strongest showing of the early season, as Brewer (3-0) coach Dana Corey said his star pitcher threw strikes 68 percent of the time.
“His curve was working, off-speed was working, good location,” Corey said. “He just made it to his 110th pitch, he should’ve been out of the inning earlier but I thought Ellsworth was feisty and their pitcher pitched well.”
On the mound for Ellsworth (1-2) was Miles Palmer, who pitched five innings and struck out six batters.
Brewer got two runners on in the first inning but Palmer was able to strike out Rowan Valley to escape the jam.
The Witches made noise in the third and broke the scoreless tie.
Vanidestine hit a one-out single, followed by a single by Jed Gilpatrick. Noah Tibbetts walked to load the bases for Valley, who hit a fly ball into right field that fell in between the right and center fielders as they lost it in the sky. The ball rolled around in right field, allowing Vanidestine and Gilpatrick to score and hand Brewer the first and only two runs of the game.
“I knew that if we got a couple runs I would be able to go right at them and let the defense do the work,” Vanidestine said. “It was a good game on both sides and they battled out there.”
Defense has been a bright spot for Brewer over its first three games.
“The hitting outside of today has gone pretty well and we’ve done some things hitting, bunting and stealing-wise that went well,” Corey said. “Defense has played really well and we had the double plays against Edward Little (a 3-2 win on April 21) with one ending the game. Our defense is there and our hitting will catch up.”
On the mound, Vanidestine feels better knowing his defense is stout behind him.
“Our defense is a big part of the team,” Vanidestine added. “We’ve worked really hard in the preseason and in practice to get the mechanics down so that it’s easy for us.”
Palmer got a line out and then a strikeout to end the third inning, and got out of a two-base runner jam in the fifth, escaping with no more runs allowed.
“Miles was great,” Ellsworth coach Dan Curtis said. “He’s a competitor and mixes and matches well and his location was good today. Ultimately he’s a competitor and wants the ball, so I appreciate that.”
Ellsworth struggled at the plate as Vanidestine struck out the side in the third and fourth innings, then added two strikeouts in both the fifth and sixth innings.
“I thought our approaches were pretty good against a very good pitcher,” Curtis said. “Vanidestine is a hell of a pitcher and one of the better ones we will see in our time, so I thought we had good approaches.”
Brewer will host Lewiston on Saturday, while Ellsworth will host John Bapst on Monday.