Blue Hill—Nothing is certain in a ballgame until the last pitch is thrown and the last bat swung. Didn’t the Eagles prove that at Mansfield Stadium on June 16, capturing a clutch, seventh-inning victory over Houlton, a team they had not faced during the regular season?
The win earned them a trip to Standish and the Saint Joseph’s College field on June 18 to face Sacopee Valley, a southern team that had pulled its own last-ditch, comeback win in its regional final. Word was the Hawks’ pitcher, a lefty who unerringly seemed to find the strike zone and curve straight through it, would challenge the Eagles lineup.
But George Stevens had its own reputation, that of a team that could dig deep at the final stretch and find the hit that would send their runners across home plate. The regional win was the most spectacular example this season, but not the first.
“I feel like we were totally prepared for this game, and came up one run short,” Coach Dan Kane said after the 3-2 loss.
The Eagles brought a strong home crowd with them to the state championship game, nearly three hours down Interstate 95 and a long walk on a dirt trail, past the drifting cheers from the softball field where another championship game was in full swing.
It wasn’t just parents and team friends filling the stands and hanging on the fence but school and team alumni and townsfolk who have followed the team through middling, solid and strong seasons. George Stevens has brought home the regional title nine times since 1989, including one memorable four-year stretch between 2002 and 2005 when they went to the state championships four times, bringing home the title in 2003 and 2004.
Coach Kane was on the field then, just as he was late Saturday afternoon at St. Joseph’s as the Eagles filed into the dugout to start the game. For the first four innings, the face-down against Hawks pitcher Roderick Maynard was quick, with 12 GSA batters up and 12 batters out.
“We knew coming down,” Kane said of Maynard after the game. “But there’s never a bad state pitcher.”
The Eagles had cleaned up on the field after an error-filled game at the regionals. Starting pitcher Jacob Keenan and the GSA infield stared down the Hawks’ lineup in the second inning after allowing three singles and a run with two outs on the scoreboard in the first.
The Hawks batters might hit Keenan’s pitches, but first baseman Beckett Slayton, Nick Norton, on second base, and Stefan Simmons, on third, short stop Taylor Schildreth, catcher Dakota Chipman and outfielders Will Entwisle, Tyler Snow and Marshal Lebel were finding answers.
But in the bottom of the third the Hawks’ fourth batter up found the far corner of left field, hitting a double to bring home a second run, extending their lead to 2-0.
Meanwhile, those fast, left-handed pitches from Maynard held the Eagles’ lineup to one single through four times at bat.
After the Hawks opened the bottom of the fourth with another hit deep into left field for a double, Coach Kane switched out Keenan for Slayton on the mound.
“Beckett and Jake have been my one, two [pitchers],” Kane said, “but I can’t really say who’s a one or two. Keenan’s faster, more powerful. Beckett, a lefty, mixes it up.”
Slayton threw a couple of strikes, and Keenan, now on first base, caught the throw to retire the next batter. But the next batter up found a solid hit past third base, and in one of the rare Eagle errors that day, the throw to nail a runner at home plate went long. With two outs, the Eagles tagged out the next batter at first, for a 3-0 deficit to end the fourth inning.
But four innings is far from the end of a ballgame.
“We got down 3-0 and we didn’t fold. We gave ourselves a chance.”
—Coach Dan Kane
George Stevens opened the fifth inning with a strong hit by Entwisle for a single. Then Simmons slammed a triple with the ball tipping just over the leather of the Hawk outfielder’s glove, driving Entwisle across home plate for a 3-1 score. But when Simmons tried to steal home from third on a foul tip by Marshal Lebel, he got trapped for the out. A quick strikeout followed, and the Hawks returned to a quick one-two-three out at bat to end the fifth.
GSA drew on their momentum, scoring a second run at the top of the sixth inning off a surprise double by Tyler McKenney, who made it home when third batter Schildroth hit a sacrifice bunt.
With the score 3-2, the Eagles kept the Hawks scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, despite one runner hovering on third base before Slayton struck out the fourth batter.
Now, it was the top of the seventh inning, under the hot, slanting late afternoon sun. The George Stevens crowd fell silent, waiting to see if the Eagles could squeeze one last seventh-inning win.
“There’s no secret,” Kane said. “We just had to come up with a big hit.”
But not this game.
The Eagles finished the season 18-2, wearing the Northern regional crown to finish an outstanding year.
“I’m very proud of them. We had an awesome year.” —Coach Dan Kane