BUCKFIELD, Maine — It didn’t matter that Jonah Williams pitched three innings in a playoff game two sunsets earlier, or that his Buckfield baseball team was hoping to end up earning another game or two next week. Saturday was the senior left-hander’s day the moment he poured the milk on his cereal.
“At this time of year, his command and velocity just increase with time,” Buckfield coach Joe McLaughlin said. “He doesn’t worry me at all. As a coach, it makes it easy, because he wants the ball, and you just get out of the way.”
Williams weaved a two-hit shutout, striking out 16 batters to lead No. 2 Buckfield past No. 3 Searsport, 2-0, in a Class D West semifinal.
In addition to five 1-2-3 innings, Williams picked off Mitchell Philbrook to negate a leadoff walk in the third.
Later, he escaped his lone jam by striking out the side, ending with Kyle Grant and Jay Burkard in succession, to leave the bases loaded in the fourth.
“I felt really good. I had good control of my fastball, and I was able to mix it up a little bit,” Williams said. “I got ahead in the count and stayed on top.”
Buckfield (11-4) advanced to the regional championship for the third consecutive year and will face No. 4 Wiscasset (9-9) on Wednesday at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish. Searsport, which moved over from Class C East this season, finished 11-7.
In addition to the endless bus ride, the Vikings also struggled against Williams’ velocity and southpaw arm angle.
“He’s the best we’ve seen all year,” Searsport coach John Frye said. “We knew he was going to come with gas. I guess we weren’t quite ready for it.”
Searsport sophomore Troy Reynolds also pitched admirably, scattering four hits, striking out five and walking five.
The Bucks scored their runs on a wild pitch in the second inning and a bases-loaded walk in the sixth.
“It was nothing fancy,” McLaughlin said. “I thought a key was the bottom of our order fouling off a lot of pitches and making [Reynolds] work a little bit.”
Keenan Stockdale led off the second with a walk. He advanced to second on a passed ball and took third on Jacob Kraske’s chopper back to Reynolds.
Reynolds hit Gerry Gagne with a pitch before the errant offering that allowed Stockdale to score.
Eric Phillips started the Vikings’ fourth with a sharp single down the left-field line. Barrett Grant walked, and after Williams struck out Kyle Moore, Reynolds hit a rope to right. Gagne cradled it on a hop, and Frye held Phillips at third.
“I try not to let those situations get to me,” Williams said. “It’s always a little nerve-wracking. It’s a lot more comfortable when you have a lead.”
Williams whiffed the next two, and Searsport didn’t produce any base runners thereafter.
The Vikings only put three balls into play after the fourth, and none out of the infield.
“That was our chance with one out and the bases loaded, and we didn’t capitalize, so tip your hat to Mr. Williams,” said Frye, whose program enjoyed one of its best seasons since winning the Class C state title in 2008.
“He was fired up,” McLaughlin added. “As goofy and aloof as he can be, he just takes the ball. He was as dialed-in as I’ve ever seen him.”
Owen Bennett ignited the Buckfield sixth with a single. Stockdale was hit by a pitch, and Kraske walked to load the bases.
Reynolds fanned Gagne before issuing a base on balls to Matt Beaucage for the insurance run.
“Three years in a row,” said Williams, who started the state final as a sophomore. “It’s a great thing to be part of.”