DOVER-FOXCROFT — With a veteran team making the move to Class C this spring after a 10-win effort in Eastern Maine Class B last season, the Foxcroft Academy baseball team had high expectations.
So a season-opening loss against Searsport was quite a blow to the ego.
But the Ponies quickly regrouped, and the results have been impressive. They haven’t lost since opening day, and Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Penquis of Milo in their regular-season finale extended their winning streak to 15 games — the second-longest run of success in the state this year regardless of class.
Only Bangor, 16-0 in Class A, has won more games consecutively.
“Losing the first game of the season was an eye-opener,” said Foxcroft senior righthander Ian Champeon, who shut out Penquis on just four hits. “Coming into the season we knew we were good and had a lot of potential and we had worked really hard, but losing that first game really kicked us in the butt. We had a team meeting and told each other we had to get it together and rattle some wins off, and 15 games later here we are.
“But what we’ve accomplished right now means nothing, it’s time to start the playoffs, and that’s a whole new season.”
Foxcroft will enter postseason play next week ranked either first or second in Eastern Maine Class C, as the Ponies were battling 15-1 Stearns of Millinocket for the top spot on the final day of the season.
Penquis, which hoped to use an upset of Foxcroft to sneak into one of the final playoff berths, ends its season at 8-6.
Champeon struck out three batters and walked just two while improving his record this spring to 6-1. He threw 85 pitches, 51 for strikes.
“Ian was around the plate consistently the whole game,” said Foxcroft coach Billy Kane. “He’s battled through a couple of games when he didn’t have his ‘A’ stuff and still been successful, but today I thought he came out and had a lot going. He was able to change eye levels and change in and out and kept them off balance.”
Champeon outdueled Penquis righthander Eddie Cobb, who allowed just one earned run while limiting a Foxcroft team that had scored at least nine runs in 12 of its last 15 games to four hits during a complete-game performance of his own. Cobb struck out five batters and walked four.
“He’s their ace and he throws real hard,” said Champeon. “We were just trying to get a bat on the ball. We knew one run could be everything, so that’s all we were trying to get.”
Foxcroft scored both of its runs in the bottom of the fourth. Kyo Mikame led off with an opposite-field double to right center, then Champeon — the Ponies’ cleanup hitter — advanced him to third with a bunt single down the third-base line.
Mikame scored on the back end of a delayed double steal, then Champeon reached third on a throwing error before scoring on a sacrifice fly to center by Ryan Stroud.
Champeon faced his biggest pitching jam in the top of the fifth, when Jesse McLaughlin hit a leadoff single and went to third with no one out on a double to right by Justin Artus.
But the four-year starter emerged unscathed, as he retired the next two batters on popouts to shortstop Josiah Richard before getting an inning-ending strikeout.
“I was a little worried, but I’ve been in that situation several times before and all it comes down to is buckling down and keeping your composure, throwing strikes and letting your defense make plays, which is what I did,” said Champeon, one of 11 seniors on the Foxcroft roster.