STANDISH, Maine — Undefeated Sacopee Valley made comebacks its trademark during the Western Class C baseball tournament, taking on the look of a team of destiny bound for an undefeated season and a state championship.
The Hawks ran into a roadblock at Saturday’s Class C state championship. Two to be precise — Gage Feeney and Jared Taylor.
Feeney tossed a complete game four-hitter and Taylor went 3 for 4 with two doubles and five runs batted in to lead Washington Academy to a 7-1 win at Mahaney Diamond on the campus of St. Joseph’s College.
It is the first state title for the Raiders (16-4) since 1987. Sacopee Valley finishes its season at 19-1.
Feeney, a junior right-hander working on three days rest since shutting out George Stevens Academy in the Eastern C final, struck out nine and didn’t walk anyone in his third complete game of the postseason.
“We did the little things,” Feeney said. “Little things like sacrifice bunts, stealing bases at the right time. Making plays defensively. Timely hits. Stuff like that has been the key all year long.”
Add patience at the plate to that list. Three walks, including Cameron Varney’s free pass with the bases loaded, two errors and Taylor’s two-run double helped the Raiders jump out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning.
“I had a frame of mind before the game and the focus was to get that bat on the ball,” Taylor said. “I forgot everything outside of here and just cleared my mind.”
Sacopee starter Roderick Maynard walked Colin Pineo to start the third. A sacrifice bunt and pitch in the dirt moved him to third and Taylor delivered again with an RBI single to make it 4-0.
Feeney picked up where he left off in the Eastern Maine tournament, where he struck out 21 in 14 innings pitched. He didn’t let a two-out error in the first or Brady Anderson’s two-out single in the third disrupt his rhythm.
“Coming in, I didn’t know much about them. So I just went with my normal game plan — location, location, location,” Feeney said. “I tried to keep them as off-balance as I could, mixing up pitches as best as I could and hoping my fastball was as fast as it can be on only three days rest.”
“I was a little bit worried [Friday],” said Derek Feeney, Washington Academy’s coach and Gage’s father. “We got home from practice and he told me his arm was a little bit tired. I thought he could come back after throwing 103 pitches or whatever it was [against GSA]. We figured we’d throw a rope around him and ride him as far as we could.”
The Hawks finally got on the board in the fifth when Alex Fenderson led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice and to third on a ground out, then scored on Devin Day’s bloop single near the right field line.
But Sacopee, which had rallied in the seventh inning of both the semifinals and finals of the Western C tournament, didn’t feel good about its chances of coming back against Feeney.
“I knew we had our work cut out for us,” Sacopee coach Eric Anderson said. “He throws hard. He changes speeds and he throws strikes. [A comeback] is always in the back of your mind, but I can’t expect to live on that every game, especially against a pitcher like that.”
The Raiders answered with a run off reliever Anthony Haskell in their next frame. Jordan Drouin beat out an infield single, stole second and scored on Kyle Taylor’s single to right.
Jared Taylor rounded out his day with a two-run double in the seventh to put a bigger dent in the Hawks’ hopes of another comeback.
“We’ve been working on it and working on it. We knew he could hit,” Derek Feeney said. “We’ve told the guys that we don’t need the big hits. We just need to take the pitch the other way, do the little stuff. They finally bought in to it, and that’s what Jared has done the last few games. He’s come through for us big.”
Feeney, Pineo and Drouin contributed to Washington’s 10-hit attack with two hits each. Pineo also scored three runs.