STANDISH, Maine — The last game was a microcosm of the entire season for the Deer Isle-Stonington baseball team.
The Mariners struggled with inexperience early in Saturday’s Class D state final at Saint Joseph’s College, just as they had at times throughout the spring — not surprising for a team with just one senior.
But as the season — and the game — continued, inexperience was diluted by the belief that success was still within reach.
And while it took extra innings to achieve that prospect — just as it did three nights earlier with a 10-inning survival of Shead of Eastport in the Eastern Maine title game — the Mariners rode the leadership of their upperclassmen to a 5-4, eight-inning victory over Richmond and their third state title in five years.
“I didn’t think we’d do this, not at all,” said junior shortstop Evan Rollins. “I thought it was going to be a pretty good rebuilding year and I thought we’d be a .500 team, but we surprised ourselves.”
One of the few veterans left from Deer Isle-Stonington’s 2007 title run, senior pitcher Eben Powers, was the catalyst for the team’s growth during the season and a come-from-behind effort in the state final.
The hard-throwing righthander pitched a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts, two walks and a hit batter during a 117-pitch complete-game effort.
“I had the jitters early, but once I found the strike zone I was fine,” said Powers. “I had a hit batter in the first inning that got to me pretty bad, but once I found the strike zone I settled down, and my curveball was working pretty good, too.”
Richmond (15-4) capitalized on Powers’ early wildness to score twice in the first inning, then added two unearned runs in the second to build a 4-2 lead.
But Powers held Richmond hitless after Tim Bradford led off the third with an infield hit, and the Bobcats managed just three more base runners, one on a passed ball after a strikeout, one on an infield error, and the third on a two-out walk in the eighth.
That final Richmond baserunner, Josh Brown, stole second to put the tying run in scoring position, but Powers struck out Mike King with a 3-2 fastball on the outside corner to send the Mariners into celebration mode.
“I think we rushed our at-bats, we did a lot of first-strike swinging,” said Richmond coach Ryan Gardner. “In the bottom of the seventh, I don’t think [Powers] threw a strike and he got all three of our kids swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. Late in the game you want to make a pitcher pitch, and we were too anxious.”
Deer Isle-Stonington (16-4) had 12 hits, but 11 were singles — including four infield hits — and Richmond pitchers Nick Woods and Mike King combined to walk just one batter, so advancing those runners proved more problematic.
But the Mariners ground out single runs in five different innings, ultimately capitalizing on three late Richmond errors that offset Deer Isle-Stonington’s defensive lapses earlier in the contest.
“We kept trying to be patient,” said Deer Isle-Stonington coach Darren Eaton. “I got fired up with some of our miscues early in the game, but I told them to stay in the game, keep battling back, and as each inning went on they learned a little more about themselves and I thought in the last three or four innings they played really well.”
Junior right fielder Joe Carter had four singles for Deer Isle-Stonington, including a pop single down the right-field line that scored Powers with the tying run in the top of the seventh. Jay Boyce added three singles, while Powers doubled and singled and third baseman Joe Condon — one of three freshman starters — singled twice.
Rollins walked to start the game, stole second and scored on a one-out opposite-field single to left by Powers to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
But after retiring the first two batters in the bottom of the first, Powers walked Bruce Carver and hit Bradford with a pitch before Matt Brown singled home Carver and Bradford scored on the back end of a double steal to give Richmond a 2-1 lead.
A bases-loaded walk to Rollins forced home Deven Haskell in the top of the second, but Richmond used three Deer Isle-Stonington errors to score twice in the bottom of the inning for a 4-2 lead.
That’s where Powers and the Mariners made their stand.
Boyce singled in the fourth and scored on Powers’ two-out double to center to pull the Mariners within 4-3.
Deer Isle-Stonington (16-4) tied the game in the seventh, as Powers reached on an error, stole second and went to third on an overthrow before Carter’s shallow pop fly landed just inside the right-field line and just out of the reach of three Richmond defenders.
“I thought it was going to be in play,” said Carter. “I wasn’t sure if anyone would get to it or not.”
Boyce had an infield hit with one out in the eighth but was forced out on a grounder by Rollins. Rollins stole second and scored the go-ahead run on a dropped throw after Jon Lymburner’s grounder to short.
“They drive me crazy at times during practice because they’re goofy,” said Eaton of his championship team. But they work hard, and when we bear down with them they do the things we ask them to do. They don’t execute everything extremely well yet because they haven’t played a lot together, so I’m very excited to have these kids come back.
“They’re very resilient, that’s the best way I can describe them, and if keep that same work ethic they’ve had this year they could be very good next year.”