By Al Pike
Foster’s Daily Democrat
May 23, 2014 2:00 AM
SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Luke Stankovich’s first start of the season was almost a short one.
But thanks to a change in location and several timely hits, the right-hander pitched the Marshwood High School baseball team to a 5-2 win Thursday over Noble in Western Maine Class A.
After six of the first 12 batters reached base against him, Stankovich allowed only three baserunners the rest of the way.
In going to distance, he even withstood a brief rain delay with one out in the bottom of the fourth. Stankovich gave up four hits and two walks. He also struck out four and hit a batter.
“They got a nice couple off hits off Luke early,” said Marshwood coach Eric Fernandes. “He was maybe coming out of the game after three (innings) because I was a little nervous about his pitch count, and he was up (in the strike zone). Then he settled in. I thought he was stronger in the last couple innings than he was in the early part.”
Stankovich threw 94 pitches and retired seven of the last eight batters he faced.
“After the first few innings I really focused on keeping the ball down,” he said. “Obviously they smoked it when I left it up. Coming into the dugout everybody was telling me to keep it down, and that’s what I did throughout the rest of the game.”
Of the three Noble batters who reached base over the last four innings, two were safe on errors.
The other one walked, but was quickly erased at second on an attempted steal.
“I think (Stankovich) got a little bit tougher to read,” said Noble coach Adam Hale. “Starting off early he had a little control (problem), and we were sitting on the fastball. I think he got dialed in more as the game went on.”
The Hawks (10-2), who extended their win streak to seven games, snapped a 2-2 tie with three runs in the bottom of the third.
Jake Lebel went 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. He drove in the go-ahead run with a single to center in the third.
Zach Doyon followed with a two-run single that made it 5-2. Doyon had two hits and reached base three times.
“Everybody in our lineup can hit,” Stankovich said. “It’s just ridiculous. There’s really no safe hole. You’re going to have to pitch to somebody, and somebody’s going to get a hit.”
Holden Jackman’s two-run single in the second transformed a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. Of the Hawks’ eight hits, six came in the second and third frames.
Doyon and Jackman were batting sixth and eighth, respectively, in Thursday’s order.
Noble’s Josh Schultz had a pair of doubles and reached base three times. He scored the Knights’ first run on an RBI single by Corey Halliday in the first.
Halliday also pitched 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
“Stank chucked a pretty good game for us,” Lebel said. “He took control on the mound and did whatever he needed to do to get us through this.”
Noble’s second run came in the third when Chase Hamilton singled and went to third on Schultze’s second double.
Hamilton scored when Caleb Chambers was thrown out at first following a dropped third strike to make it 2-2.
“When you’re up in the zone and they hit you, the coach has to make a move,” Fernandes said. “At this part of the season I can’t let a game get away from us just because we want to conserve pitching. We had a bunch of guys ready to go.”
Marshwood wasted little time regaining the lead when the first four batters in the bottom of the third reached base against Noble starter Grayson Waterman and three scored.
The Hawks were ranked second in the latest Heal Point standings.
“We’re only as good as our next game,” Fernandes said. “We talk about amnesia.”
“We’re just really trying to stay humble,” Stankovich said. “We don’t want to let it get to our egos.”
The hard-luck Knights (2-10) have lost five in a row, including four by one run. Nine of their 12 games have been decided by two runs or fewer.
“It gets a little old,” Halliday said, “but you’ve got to stay positive.”
“The kids are hanging in there,” Hale said. “They’re playing hard. I think you saw that today.”