STANDISH, Maine — Mitchell Philbrook saved his best for the final at-bat of his high school career.
The Searsport High School senior helped his Vikings three-peat in dramatic fashion Saturday afternoon, launching a two-out, solo home run well over the left-field wall in the bottom of the ninth as Searsport edged Bangor Christian 6-5 at Saint Joseph’s College.
The Vikings third baseman was just looking to rip a base hit up the middle to give his team a chance to start a two-out rally.
“As long as it was a strike, I was going to swing easily,” said Philbrook.
But he wound up unleashing a no-doubter that coach John Frye knew was a gold-glove clincher when it left the bat.
“Once I saw the left fielder turn I knew it was gone,” said Frye, whose Vikings finish at 17-3.
“I just kept looking and when I saw it hit the trees, I was like, yeah, finally,” the soft-spoken Philbrook said.
Bangor Christian wound up 14-6.
Philbrook’s homer provided Searsport its only lead of the contest, as the Vikings erased a four-run deficit with two runs in the sixth and two more in the seventh.
Liam McMillan plated both of the sixth-inning runs with a line-drive single to center while Ben Powell came up clutch with two outs in the seventh, roping a two-run single to right.
Bangor Christian threatened in the the eighth, but left men on second and third.
“They’re a great team,” said Philbrook. “I knew coming into today it was going to be a tough game.”
The Patriots and Vikings played a regular-season doubleheader with Searsport getting the sweep.
The Vikings showed some unusual nerves early on, as two errors and a two-run single by Bangor Christian eighth-grader Wyatt Gogan helped the Patriots take a 4-0 lead in the top of the first.
“They were tight and nervous for some reason,” Frye said. “I’m not sure why.”
But the Vikings were able to settle down and keep the Patriots from mounting any serious threats the remainder of the game. Jon Cormier’s RBI single in the fourth provided Bangor Christian with its other run.
“Even the best players are going to [make] errors,” said Philbrook. “We had to work even harder to replace those errors.”
Searsport did show its championship resolve by responding with a run in the first, as Barrett Grant, who got the pitching victory in relief, tripled and came in to score on a wild pitch.
Grant, a Mr. Baseball finalist, didn’t allow a run over his 5 1/3 innings of work on the mound.
“There’s a reason why he’s a Mr. Baseball finalist,” said Bangor Christian coach Tim Collins. “We played super well early, we had them on the ropes, we just couldn’t deliver the knockout punch.”
It was actually Philbrook who ignited Searsport’s late rally with a double.
“This is a team that never gets down,” said Frye. “We’ve been here three years in a row. We know there’s ups and downs.”
Dean Grass pitched well over the first four frames for the Pats, allowing just the one run while getting six ground-ball outs.
“The Grass kid was on top of his game the whole day,” said Frye.
But when it mattered most, it was Philbrook who came through in the clutch.
“There’s no words to describe the feeling of it all,” Frye said.
Even in that humbling moment, Bangor Christian players had no reason to hang their heads.
“Nobody really expected us to be here,” Collins said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them. They had a great year.”