BANGOR — The Bucksport High School baseball team played well enough Wednesday night to win a lot of games.
But Tim Locke foiled the Golden Bucks’ championship dream.
The junior righthander scattered six hits over six innings on the mound and hit a two-run homer as top-seeded Waterville edged No. 2 Bucksport 3-1 in the Eastern Maine Class B final at Mansfield Stadium.
The title is the first for the Purple Panthers since competing as a Class A school in 2001, and sends coach Don Sawyer’s club (18-1) to Saturday’s 11 a.m. state championship game here against Cape Elizabeth, which beat Yarmouth 5-1 in the Western B final.
Bucksport ends its season with a 14-5 record.
Locke featured a fastball and slider while striking out two and walking two before Josh Gaudette pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for his first save.
Waterville needed solid pitching because Bucksport junior Evan Eldridge overcame a three-run second inning to shut out the Purple Panthers the rest of the way, capping off a complete game of his own.
“I didn’t think three runs would win it, but it obviously did,” said Bucksport coach Mike Cowing. “I had Tim [Nason] getting ready two or three times, but it was just a gutsy performance by Evan that I think will really bode well for him next year.”
Locke staked Bucksport to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second, following a leadoff single to center by Kyle Bishop by driving a 1-0 fastball from well beyond the left-field fence for his first home run of the season.
“It was a fastball high and inside,” said Locke. “When it hit the bat, I had a pretty good idea it was gone.”
It was perhaps the only pitch Eldridge wished he could have had back in an otherwise stellar seven-hit complete-game performance.
“My ball tails a lot and it just tailed right up into into his sweet spot and he turned on it,” said Eldridge. “I left it high in the zone.
“Usually it tails back in and hits the outside corner, but that one just went right into his sweet spot.”
Waterville added its final run later in the inning on a bases-loaded walk to J.T. Whitten and Locke and Gaudette made the lead stand up despite two significant threats by the Golden Bucks.
Bucksport loaded the bases with no one out in the fourth on singles by Cody Farrell, Tyler French and Tim Nason, but Locke escaped as Eldridge popped out to first, Tyler McAllian sharply lined out to second and Billy DeRedin hit an inning-ending fielder’s choice grounder that forced Nason out at second.
“I had to settle down, so coach came out to talk to me and settled me down and told me the guys were going to make the plays behind me,” Locke said.
Bucksport finally broke through against Locke in the sixth to score the first run Waterville had allowed in 17¤ innings of postseason play. Farrell led off with a single to right and French walked before Eldridge grounded a one-out RBI single to left.
“It was just an inside pitch and I tried turning on it and just happened to find a hole,” Eldridge said.
But the rally ended there thanks to Waterville’s outfield defense.
First McAllian hit a sinking liner to center that Sam Nashed snared as he was going to the ground. DeRedin followed with another well-hit ball to right on which the Purple Panthers’ Sam Wehry ranged back to make the inning-ending catch.
“They made some plays, and I think we did, too, but sometimes the baseball gods sometimes will get you,” said Cowing. “I don’t know how many times they made a diving catch or a great catch in the outfield on some hard-hit balls.”