BUCKSPORT — Earlier this season, the Bucksport High baseball team didn’t always responded well after spotting its opponent a lead.
After John Bapst scored two first-inning runs in Saturday’s Eastern Maine Class B semifinal, the Golden Bucks showed they’ve improved their mental toughness.
Second-seeded Bucksport erased the deficit, then used eighth-inning heroics from Billy DeRedin to pull out a 4-3 victory, its eighth in a row.
“I think they just started believing in themselves, that they are a pretty good team and, if they get down a little bit, they can come back,” said coach Mike Cowing.
The Golden Bucks (14-4) advance to Wednesday’s 7 p.m. regional title game against No. 1 Waterville (17-1) at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
The sixth-seeded Crusaders of Bangor finished up at 11-7.
Evan Eldridge ignited Bucksport’s winning rally, smashing a one-out double off the fence in right-center field. It was the only hit recorded by any of the top five hitters in the order.
John Bapst righthander Jason McBurnie then walked Tyler McAllian intentionally, his only walk of the contest.
That brought up DeRedin, who laced a 1-1 pitch over the head of the second baseman to score Eldridge from second base with the winning run.
“Tyler had been hitting the ball good all game, so when they put him on I was ready to make them pay for that,” said DeRedin, a junior. “I saw a big hole at second base, so I tried to take it that way.”
A jubilant celebration ensued around DeRedin as Bucksport advanced to the Eastern Maine championship game.
“He eats, sleeps and drinks baseball, just loves the game,” Cowing said of DeRedin, “so you love it when a kid like that comes through.”
Tyler French (4-1) went the distance for Bucksport. The junior righthander spread out five hits, struck out eight and walked three.
French, whom Cowing prefers to leave in center field for his outstanding defense, was happy to take the mound.
“I just focused in [Friday] night when coach told me,” French said. “I was excited.
“We played in the semis last year against Gardiner,” he added. “I didn’t pitch, so I wasn’t as nervous. This year was a lot different.”
French threw hard and utilized mostly fastballs early, then mixed in a curve as the game wore on. He threw 105 pitches. He outdueled John Bapst righty Jason McBurnie (5-2), who allowed eight hits.
McBurnie, who allowed only two earned runs, fanned four and walked only one while throwing 112 pitches.
McAllian doubled and singled for the winners, while DeRedin and Anthony Hamlin posted two singles each.
Ryan Carr doubled, singled and scored two runs to pace John Bapst.
The Crusaders jumped on top 2-0 in the first when Carr beat out an infield hit, Bill Wetherbee walked and Hammond stroked an opposite-field double to right field.
French retired the next three batters to limit the damage.
“He battled back after that little bit of a struggle in the first inning,” Cowing said. “In the middle innings he was tremendous, they couldn’t hit him.”
The Bucks tied it in the third when the Crusaders sandwiched fielding errors around Hamlin’s line-drive single to center. Cody Farrell plated a run when he reached on an error.
French delivered the tying run with a sacrifice fly.
Bucksport made it 3-2 in the fourth. McAllian pounded a one-out single to center, DeRedin beat out a bunt single to third base and Mike Cummings crushed a run-scoring double to center field.
McBurnie worked out of further trouble.
John Bapst tied it in the fifth after two were out. Carr stroked a hard, opposite-field double to right-center and Wetherbee hit a pop-fly, RBI single to left-center.
It was the last hit the Crusaders would get.
“That was a very good ballgame,” DeRedin said. “Bapst fought very hard. They came out ready to go.”