BANGOR — Kyle Bishop pitched a four-hit shutout and added three hits of his own — including a fifth-inning single that drove home the game-ending run — as top-ranked Waterville won its second straight Eastern Class B baseball title Tuesday with a 10-0 victory over No. 3 Bucksport at soggy Mansfield Stadium.
The defending state champion Purple Panthers will take a 17-2 record into Saturday’s 4 p.m. state title game against Western B champion Greely of Cumberland Center at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.
“It’s great,” said Bishop. “We’ve come a long way in four years. This is the third year in a row we’ve played in this game, and to get back to the state final for the second year in a row is hard to put into words.”
Bucksport, which also lost to Waterville in last year’s regional final, ends its season with a 12-7 record.
Bishop (7-0) struck out five batters and walked no one while throwing just 72 pitches, 50 for strikes.
“The key was just getting ahead,” said Bishop, who now has allowed just two earned runs in 41 innings this spring. “I couldn’t get a good grip on my split-finger [fastball] because the ball was wet, but just getting ahead and throwing the changeup once in a while kept them off balance.”
The senior righthander went to just four three-ball counts during the game and never faced more than four batters in an inning.
“Kyle did a great job today, he kept the ball low,” said Waterville coach Don Sawyer. “He paid for anything he got up, but overall he kept changing speeds like he did the other day against Old Town [in the quarterfinals] and kept them off balance, and our infield made the plays when they beat the ball into the ground.”
Bishop was backed by an errorless defense sparked by senior Mark Beckim, the Purple Panthers’ everyday center fielder who was forced into duty at shortstop after regular starter Tyler Bouchard was hospitalized Monday night with an undisclosed illness.
“Yesterday he took all the reps because we knew Tyler might not be here, and he did a great job stepping in there today,” said Sawyer. “He plays with a lot of confidence and isn’t afraid of the challenge.”
Waterville took control of the game early, scoring four runs in the first inning and three more in the second to take a 7-0 lead.
Aiden Fitzgerald sparked the first-inning uprising with a two-run single up the middle, while Bishop had an RBI-triple to left-center in the bottom of the second.
“We all came ready to play, offensively and defensively,” said Bishop. “We were swinging at strikes, we weren’t swinging at balls, and jumping on them like we did killed their momentum and lifted us up.”
The Purple Panthers, who capitalized on nine walks and two hit batters issued by Bucksport pitchers, added two more runs in the third on three walks, three wild pitches and a sacrifice fly by Lance Lefebvre, who was making his first start of the season in left field.
Bishop ended the game in the fifth with a bases-loaded, 350-foot RBI single to straightaway center.
“Waterville took advantage of every situation today,” said Bucksport coach Mike Cowing. “It almost felt like the opposite of Saturday when we played Hermon [and built a 10-1 second-inning lead en route to a 16-3 win]. Only this time we were shell-shocked in the beginning, and it’s tough to come back because Kyle’s a good enough pitcher that he’s not going to make mistakes.”
Bishop, who entered the game batting .541 for the season, had a triple, double and single in his four plate appearances and along with Fitzgerald and third baseman Tim Locke had two RBIs apiece.
Evan Eldridge, who absorbed the pitching loss for Bucksport, doubled and singled to pace the Golden Bucks’ offense, while Tyler French and Mike Cummings each singled.