Rowell’s Navigators battle back for a walk-off victory

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — Trailing 3-0 after the top of the fifth, the Rowell’s Navigators came back to tie the team’s home opener against the Hampden Riverjacks during a matinee Junior American Legion contest on June 18 at Foxcroft Academy. The Navigators (who improved to 2-0) then walked off with a 4-3 victory on a squeeze bunt by Luke Stedman to drive in Doug Kane.

With the score at 3-3, Kane led off the home half of the seventh with a five-pitch walk against Hampden reliever Robert Buzzini who got the baseball from Riverjacks starter Wyatt Harriman for the last out of the sixth. Kane then got into scoring position by stealing second base with Ryan Laffin at the plate.

Laffin, who tossed a complete game for the Rowell’s squad, helped his cause on the mound by laying a bunt down the first base line. The Riverjacks only had a play at first as Laffin’s sacrifice moved Kane to third and put the winning run 90 feet away from the plate.

Navigators’ hitter Cameron Doak had a 0-1 count when he was lifted for Stedman as a pinch hitter. The first pitch to Stedman was out of the strike zone and then he saw a Buzzini pitch he could put the head of the bat on for a bunt. With Kane having a big lead at third and heading for home, Stedman directed the ball on to the infield grass. No Hampden players could get to it in time for a throw to the plate as Kane slid in for winning run No. 4.

Kane also scored his team’s first run on Sunday afternoon. After getting to first on a fielder’s choice and moving to second and third following Laffin getting by a pitch and a Doak groundout, Kane had a big lead at third base in the fifth. The Riverjacks tried to pick him off but the catcher’s throw sailed into left field to enable Kane to score with ease to put the Navigators on the scoreboard.

Hampden looked to keep the lead at 3-1 with two quick outs in the bottom of the sixth. Jake Bickford then doubled to centerfield for his game-high second hit of the day — he also drew a walk to reach base in all three at-bats. He then stole third base before Stedman was awarded first base by drawing a walk on a full count.

Bickford was able to come home with no threat of being tagged out as the umpire called Harriman for a balk, which made the game 3-2 and also advanced Stedman to second. By moving up a base, Stedman had an easier time scoring the tying run on a centerfield double hit by Ryan Vienneau.

Hampden then made the pitching change with Buzzini relieving Harriman, and Buzzini induced a groundball out on one pitch to leave Vienneau stranded on the basepaths and keep the game 3-3. The Navigators would have three players left on base, half of the six for the Riverdogs.

Pitching all seven innings, Laffin earned the victory. He scattered seven hits and walked two while striking out a half dozen Riverjacks.

This season the Rowell’s Navigators ( are not fielding a Senior American Legion team as has been done over the past years. Instead a Junior American Legion squad — for players born between 2000 and 2004 — is taking to the field in the nine-team Junior League North Division to play a 16-game regular season schedule through mid-July against teams based in Augusta, Bangor, China, Ellsworth, Fairfield, Hampden, the Oakland area and Skowhegan.

The Navigators’ roster includes players from Central High School, Dexter Regional High School, Foxcroft Academy, Greenville High School, Piscataquis Community Middle School and SeDoMoCha Middle School.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
WELL AHEAD OF A THROW — As his teammates watch from the dugout, Doug Kane slides safely into the plate on a squeeze bunt by Luke Stedman for the winning run of a 4-3 Junior American Legion game between the Rowell’s Navigators and the Hampden Riverjacks on Sunday afternoon at Foxcroft Academy. The Navigators overcame a 3-0 deficit to tie the game in the sixth before the walk-off play in the bottom of the seventh.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
EYE ON THE BALL — Navigators shortstop Jeremy Richard fields a groundball in the seventh inning he will then relay to Jake Bickford at second for the force out during a June 18 game in Dover-Foxcroft. Looking on from leftfield is Doug Kane.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
PAT ON THE HELMET — Luke Stedman is greeted by Jeremy Richard after Stedman’s squeeze bunt drove in Doug Kane for the walk-off run. The victory improved the Navigators to 2-0.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
QUICK THROW TO FIRST — Ryan Laffin tossed a complete game to earn the victory on the mound Sunday for the Navigators.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
DOUBLING HIS WAY INTO SCORING POSITION — Jake Bickford asks for time following a double in the bottom of the sixth. Bickford would soon score on a balk and he finished the day with a double, single and walk to reach base in all three plate appearances.

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