Playing for a spot in the American Legion state tournament, Windham head coach Nick Dubay knew he’d need starting pitcher Nate Boyle’s A-game.

He got it.

Boyle struck out 11 in a complete-game six-hitter as Windham beat Brewer 4-1 in a legion state tournament play-in game Saturday at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach. For Boyle to go the full nine in an elimination game, and make it look rather easy in the process, impressed his skipper.

“He’s a gamer, but sometimes he’s streaky and you’ll either know if he’s on from the start or he’s not,” Dubay said of his pitcher. “But you can count on that in a big game he steps up. When he gets in the zone he’s great.”

Windham had given Boyle a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, when with runners on first and second a pitch from Falcons starter Dennis O’Neil got away from catcher Jordan Carter. Carter threw the ball into left field as the runners attempted to advance, allowing Joe Francoeur to score and Cody Dube to advance to third.

Matt McLean proceeded to plate Dube with an RBI groundout, and Windham had a prized early advantage.

“We have this philosophy called base two, and that means two things and one of those is always scoring first and early,” Dubay said. “At the high school level kids are going to kind of get all fired up to start a game, but if you get down early you’re going to get kind of complacent.

“But they stayed in it and pushed us to our limits.”

Brewer got its lone run in the bottom of the second on a Billy Deredin RBI groundout, but from there were continually kept off-balance by Boyle’s fastball-curveball combination, getting only one runner past second base in the final seven innings.

Boyle said he knew he had his best stuff early on.

“In the third I was hitting fastballs outside corner, which usually is a sign if I’m going to have a off day or a good day,” he said. “I knew the fastball was working and I got the curveball in there, so I was pretty impressed. I liked it.”

While Boyle kept the Brewer bats silent, Windham also found it difficult to score, though it wasn’t for lack of baserunners. The Merchants loaded the bases in both the sixth and seventh innings, in the latter case with no outs, but were unable to push a single run across in either inning.

“That’s been our biggest problem all year is hitting with guys on base,” Dubay said.

The Merchants finally secured Boyle a little breathing room in the eighth when Shawn Francoeur laced a O’Neil pitch to right to score two and make it 4-1, which was more than enough for Boyle to comfortably finish off Brewer.

But though it didn’t hurt them in this one, Dubay said a repeat performance with runners in scoring position at states would likely be much more costly.

“We’ve got to do a better job of scoring early but then building on it, not just scoring two in the first and then waiting until the eighth to score again,” Dubay said. “Now we’re playing against the best of the best so leaving guys on base is going to hurt us in the long run. If we want to go far we’ve got to make sure toe execute and get runners in.”

Windham now moves on to a state tourney first-round matchup with Post 51 of Messalonskee, the defending Class A high school champions, at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday at The Ballpark.

That may seem like a bad-luck draw to some teams, but Dubay said his squad had been eager to prove itself against the best teams in the state ever since going out to Scarborough in the Western Class A semifinals in June.

“We don’t really know anything about them, but I think the kids are going to be excited about it, Dubay said of playing Post 51. “They had the mentality they were going to beat everybody (during the high school season), so there’s no better way to show it then playing the state champion.

“They think they’re the best Class A team and playing the state champion in the first round will be a good test.”

Windham starting pitcher Nate Boyle struck out 11 in a complete-game six-hitter to help his team beat Brewer 4-1 in a state tournament play-in game Saturday at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach. The Merchants will now face Zone 2 champions Messalonskee in the first-round of the state tournament Wednesday. (Staff photo by Cameron Dunbar)

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