ORONO, Maine — The Bucksport Golden Bucks entered Thursday’s Eastern Maine Class C baseball championship game averaging 8.8 runs per game.
But Stearns High School of Millinocket seniors Jordan Morrow and Kyle McVey combined on a five-hit shutout, and the Minutemen pushed across an unearned run in the fourth inning to beat Bucksport 1-0 at Mahaney Diamond.
It was the first Eastern Maine Class C baseball title since 2000 for the 17-2 Minutemen, winners of 15 straight. They will take on 17-2 Dirigo of Dixfield in Saturday’s 2 p.m. state championship game at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
The youthful Bucks, with one senior, two juniors, six sophomores and a freshman in their starting lineup, concluded a 16-3 campaign that included 15 wins in their last 17 games.
Right-hander Morrow allowed two hits through the first three innings, striking out three and walking one, before lefty McVey came on at the outset of the fourth and tossed four innings of three-hit ball with three strikeouts and one walk.
Morrow threw 37 pitches, 24 for strikes, while McVey threw 56 pitches of which 35 were strikes.
Stearns coach Ryan Carrier and assistant Don Boyington decided at the outset of the playoffs to have Morrow throw the first three innings before having McVey throw the next three and then use Nick Dumas in the seventh.
“But [we stayed with McVey today] because he felt good, he wanted to finish and we wanted to give him [that chance],” said Carrier who had seven seniors in the starting lineup.
“They threw strikes,” said Bucksport junior first baseman Tyler Maguire. “They didn’t throw us anything we couldn’t hit. I think the jitters got to us. We have a lot of young players. We didn’t get it done.”
“[Morrow] had a pretty good curve. He was good. The second pitcher was very slow. And we’re better at hitting fastballs,” said Bucksport sophomore righthander Gabe Stearns, who turned an impressive complete-game four-hitter with four strikeouts and three walks. All four hits were singles. He threw 53 strikes among his 86 pitches.
Gabe Stearns has allowed just one earned run this season.
“He was very good. He hit his spots,” said McVey.
McVey said when he came on to pitch, his major concern was throwing strikes..
“The defense controlled everything else. I just listened to my catcher [Morrow], I threw what he wanted me to and hit my spots,” said McVey, who is now 7-0.
“We couldn’t get that big hit and when we did hit one, it was right at somebody,” said Bucksport coach Mike Cowing. “We had a hard time staying back [on the off-speed pitches]. We wanted to attack the ball.”
Morrow scored the game’s only run after starting the rally by poking a one-out single to center.
“[Stearns] threw me a curve that hung down the middle and I was able to capitalize,” said Morrow.
He stole second, leaping in the air to avoid the tag of shortstop Josh Gray, who had to range far to his left to catch the throw. Morrow’s knee accidentally caught Gray in the head and stunned him but he shook it off.
“He came off the bag to grab it and I didn’t have anywhere to go so I kind of jumped. I got lucky. I bumped him with my knee and I apologized to him,” said Morrow.
Morrow moved to third on a groundout and scored on an infield fielding error off the bat of McVey.
“I was just trying to make contact and get a hit,” said McVey, who hit a 2-2 pitch.
Both teams had a glorious chance to score in the fifth as each put the first two runners on base.
Bucksport’s Carter DeRedin walked in the top of the fifth and Dylan Soper hit a single to left.
But McVey made a pivotal heads-up play on a sacrifice attempt down the third base line, gunning out the runner at third.
“It was mostly instinct. I listened to my catcher once again and got it over to third,” said McVey.
Morrow called for McVey to throw to third.
McVey got out of the jam with a strikeout and a one-hopper back to him.
Dylan Martin and Lucas McLain singled for Stearns to open the bottom of the fifth, but Stearns worked out of it with a pair of flyouts sandwiching a strikeout.
Besides Morrow, Martin and McLain, Tanner Carrier was the only other Minutemen with a hit.
DeRedin had the game’s only extra-base hit, a two-out double in the second, and he also had a single. Soper, Gray and Stearns had the other hits, all singles.