BANGOR, Maine — Neighboring Winslow and Waterville have had a storied high school sports rivalry, with generations of athletes crossing the bridge between the two communities to battle each other in typically intense affairs no matter the sport.
The schools’ baseball teams trekked an hour north Thursday to face off for the Eastern Maine Class B baseball championship, and they combined to write another memorable chapter in their competitive history.
Junior first baseman Zach Guptill scored when a bunt by teammate Ryan Dubois was thrown away with no one out in the bottom of the ninth inning to give Winslow a dramatic 3-2 victory over Waterville at Mansfield Stadium.
Winslow (16-3) advances to Saturday’s 4 p.m. state final against York at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish. Waterville finishes its season at 16-4.
Guptill opened the Winslow ninth with a single to right-center — his third hit of the game off Waterville left-hander Brian Bellows.
“Honestly I felt no pressure whatsoever,” said Guptill. “It was just me and Bellows and I just wanted to beat him so bad. I had that mentality and I guess it worked.”
With Waterville expecting a bunt, Winslow’s Logan Hewes singled to left to advance Guptill to second base.
Dubois bunted the first pitch he saw to the third-base side of the mound. Bellows fielded the ball and fired toward first, but no one was covering the base and the ball sailed into foul territory, allowing Guptill to score the winning run — Winslow’s third unearned run of the game.
“I was rounding third and looked and saw it was a bad throw and just took off,” said Guptill.
Dylan Hapworth, a sophomore righthander, earned the pitching win with 3 ⅔ innings of one-hit scoreless relief. He struck out six batters, including the side in order during the top of the ninth.
Bellows scattered seven hits in a complete-game effort while striking out seven batters and walking one.
Waterville took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Don Pooler drew a leadoff walk from Hewes, the Winslow starter, then stole second base and scored on Tyler Bouchard’s sharp one-out single down the left-field line.
Winslow tied the game in the bottom of the first. Gabe Smith led off by reaching on an infield error, then stole second before taking third base as Bouchard made a barehanded grab of a Don Camp grounder to record the first out of the inning.
After Hapworth flied out to shallow right, Guptill singled sharply up the middle to drive home Smith.
Both starters then settled down, cruising into the middle innings.
After allowing a leadoff walk to Dubois in the bottom of the second, Bellows retired the next 15 batters he faced while Hewes retired 15 of 17 batters after the first inning until Bouchard reached on a one-out outfield error in the top of the sixth.
When Aiden FitzGerald then worked Hewes to a 2-1 count, LaCasse turned to the hard-throwing Hapworth.
His first pitch sailed to the backstop, enabling Bouchard to advance to third, and FitzGerald then walked and stole second before Kaleb Kane grounded a 1-0 pitch through the drawn-in infield to right field to drive home Bouchard with the go-ahead run.
Bellows didn’t throw more than 11 pitches in an inning between the third and sixth innings, but Guptill capped off a nine-pitch at-bat to open the Winslow seventh with a single to right.
“I fouled off a couple of pitches that I didn’t like hoping I’d get one I did like,” said Guptill. “That was wasn’t a pitch I wanted, I was trying to foul it off but it happened to drop in there.”
Hewes then popped up a sacrifice bunt that Bellows couldn’t catch in the air, and when his throw to first was dropped Winslow had runners on second and first.
Dubois singled to right to load the bases, and Alex Berard followed one out later by chopping an infield single to shortstop that drove home the tying run.
Bellows preserved the tie with an unassisted double play on a suicide squeeze attempt by Taylor Roy.
Roy’s first bunt try trickled just into foul territory along the first-base line before being scooped up by Bellows. Roy bunted the next pitch in front of the plate, with Bellows making a diving catch and then running to third base to put out pinch-runner Joseph Hopkins and end the inning.
“Toward the end we were going for the suicide squeeze for the win.” said LaCasse. “You work the whole season for maybe that one suicide squeeze in the playoffs, and this time it didn’t work. but I guess we just made it a little more exciting in the end.”