Jun. 8—AUBURN — Clay Robbins wasn’t able to finish Edward Little’s no-hitter on the mound, but he did finish off the Red Eddies’ Class A North opening round playoff victory at the plate.
Robbins pitched the first three innings before coming out, with the eighth-seeded Red Eddies up by five runs, to preserve his pitch count. He later ended the game with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, tight-roping a single down the third-base line to drive in Jack Keefe and cap off a 10-0 win over No. 9 Mt. Blue at Austin Field on Monday.
“We’ve been talking about finishing a lot this year,” Edward Little baseball coach Dave Jordan said. “Especially we’ve had a lot of games late that we’ve given up runs and stuff like that, so it was really nice to see them … finish the game like that and execute to get it done with some good at-bats.”
Edward Little (10-6) advances to face top-seeded Oxford Hills (14-2) on Thursday.
After striking out the side, and working around a one-out walk and two stolen bases by Mt. Blue’s Jayden Meader, in the top of Monday’s first inning, Robbins helped get the Red Eddies’ (10-6) offense on the board in the bottom half. Campbell Cassidy hit a one-out single high off Mt. Blue starter Sam Wrigley’s glove, then Robbins sent a hit-and-run single past second to put runners on the corners. Cassidy scored on a wild pitch and a batter later Robbins scored on a pickoff error.
“We have a freshman pitcher coming in behind me, so I knew we had to get him a lead and I had to shut the door pitching,” Robbins said. “So we were able to do that, execute a nice hit-and-run and get going.”
The Red Eddies used small ball to plate another run in the second. Kamden Masselli doubled deep to left to lead off, and Will Cassidy and Alex Avila sandwiched sacrifice bunts around a Chase Martin hit-by-pitch to score Masselli.
“We work on that stuff a lot in practice and today they executed great,” Jordan said.
Robbins put down EL’s third sac bunt in the third, moving Campbell Cassidy to second after a leadoff infield single. Colin Merritt walked, Wrigley struck out Patrick Anthoine for the second out, then Masselli walked to load the bases. Will Cassidy drove in two runs with a single to make the Eddies’ lead 5-0.
“I thought our (senior pitchers) actually handled that pressure really well, but (Edward Little) did a nice job of a run here, a run there, a couple runs here, a couple runs there, and before you know it we’re at 5-0, and then all of a sudden they’re putting together the big inning at the end,” Mt. Blue (8-8) coach Nic Koban said. “They certainly put the pressure on.”
Robbins was pulled after just three hitless innings, the last of which he finished by corralling Hayden Dippner’s hard, bouncing grounder and throwing him out at first base. Robbins finished with five strikeouts and one walk.
“I love these hot days. You feel nice and loose. I can really let it go. And I felt good,” Robbins said. “I struggled early but settled in nicely, pitched to contact more, and the boys did a good job behind me.”
Robbins, a senior, threw a solo no-hitter two weeks ago in a 9-0 win over Cony.
Drew Smith relieved Robbins on Monday. He walked three in the top of the fourth, but was able to get out of the jam.
“We knew we wanted Clay to go a certain spot and then take him out to make sure he was available (Thursday against Oxford Hills),” Jordan said. “And we wanted Drew, as a freshman, to just get a taste of what it is for playoffs. And knowing that we had a little cushion there to work with definitely helped.”
Koban said Robbins is the best pitcher his team faced this season, and was probably the hardest thrower, though he thought Smith had similar velocity.
“I don’t know if there’s anything really we could have done better, we just couldn’t quite put the ball in play,” Koban said. “(Robbins is) tough.”
Wrigley also came out after three innings, replaced by Jackson Joyce. The Edward Little offense threatened in the fourth, but Joyce stranded Jack Keefe at third after he hit one-out double and advanced a base on a groundout.
The Red Eddies then knocked Joyce out of the game without recording an out in the fifth. An error, Anthoine’s bunt single, Masselli’s single against a drawn-in infield, a balk, a Will Cassidy intentional walk and Gavin Levesque’s single scored three runs to send Joyce off the mound.
Charlie Roberts was able to induce a fielder’s choice that gunned down Cassidy’s pinch runner, Michael Braga, at home, but Keefe’s infield single scored another run.
Keefe moved to second on another fielder’s choice before Robbins stepped to the plate and sent his team to the regional quarterfinals.
“You have no idea (how excited we are to face Oxford Hills),” Robbins said. “It’s going to be great. It’s going to be a battle, for sure. I’m excited.”