BANGOR, Maine — Cody Collins waited three seasons to pitch in a state championship game.
Despite working only three innings in 2014 because of an elbow injury, the senior finally received that opportunity on Saturday afternoon.
Collins pitched two scoreless innings, then delivered the winning run with a single in the eighth inning to lift Bangor Christian to its third straight Class D baseball title with a 5-4 victory over Wiscasset at Mansfield Stadium.
“If there was a way to finish a story, you couldn’t write it up any better than that,” Collins said. “I just love this team so much and I couldn’t imagine going out any better.”
Coach Mike Poulin’s Patriots (19-1) played catch-up throughout, but they demonstrated persistence and poise behind Collins, a group of seasoned veterans and a handful of key underclassmen.
“It was the perfect ending to a perfect storm,” said Poulin, whose ballclub prevailed despite some injuries to key players.
“Adversity defines your character,” he said. “Are you going to fold up your tent or are you going to weather the storm? That’s what we have worked on all year.”
Coach Mike Bowles’ Wiscasset squad (10-10) was playing in the program’s first title game. The Wolverines led 4-1 through 5 1/2 innings, but could not stop the resilient Patriots from scoring four runs in the last three innings.
Collins made one final mound appearance despite an ulnar nerve issue. He will undergo surgery next Friday to correct the problem.
“The doctor told me it was just going to be a matter of pain tolerance and that’s what I kept telling myself: Just keep pitching through it,” said Collins, whose father Tim is an assistant coach.
Bangor Christian scored twice in the sixth to get within 4-3, then brought in the hard-throwing Collins. He retired the Wolverines 1-2-3, providing the Patriots with a boost of energy and confidence.
“It was kind of like a fresh start to the game,” said senior Tucker Rice. “He knew what he was getting into and we trusted him and he did a great job.”
The Patriots continued the momentum in the seventh. Collins drew a leadoff walk and Wiscasset starter Daren Wood was lifted in favor of Chandler Longfellow.
Seth Pearson bunted Collins to second, then Rice delivered a run-scoring single through the left side.
Collins struck out the side in the eighth, working around a one-out walk, setting the stage for his own heroics.
“I think the turning point was when Cody came in and shut them down in the seventh inning. That totally changed the momentum,” Poulin said.
Freshman Alexander McKenney, the No. 9 batter, ignited the winning rally when he reached on a high-chop single to third base. Eighth-grader Levi Stedman entered to pinch-run.
Senior Zac Palmeter moved Stedman into scoring position with a bunt single along the third-base line, his fourth hit of the game. His brother Josh Palmeter then reached on a bunt single when the pitcher’s throw to third base was late.
Collins laced the next pitch into center field, sending the Patriots into a jubilant celebration on the infield.
“I have a lot of faith in Cody, he’s a really great batter, so I was pretty confident we were going to win at that point,” said Zac Palmeter, who had two RBIs.
Collins finished with three singles and Rice collected a triple, two singles and two RBIs. McKenney singled twice.
Junior righty Seth Pearson spaced seven hits and four runs (three earned) through six innings with five strikeouts and a walk. He also doubled.
“It was awesome that he [Collins] got to close it out,” Pearson said. “Senior year, that’s the best thing you could ask for.”
Longfellow posted an RBI double and a run-scoring single to pace Wiscasset. Nate Howard and Cass Carr each provided an RBI single.
The Wolverines grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second on an error, a sacrifice bunt and Howard’s RBI single. They extended the lead in the third on Longfellow’s RBI single.
BC finally got something going against Wood in the fourth when one-out hits by Collins, Pearson and Rice made it 2-1. However, Wiscasset responded with single runs in the fifth and sixth.
In the fifth, consecutive doubles by Wood and Longfellow plated a run, then Carr singled home Matt Craig (single, stolen base) to make it 4-1.
The Patriots, who stranded 10 baserunners through seven innings, did not panic and made the late offensive push.
“When you hit the ball hard, get runners on base, eventually something good’s bound to happen and we finally broke through at the end,” Collins said.