Given their recent pedigrees, perhaps it would have been surprising only if Lewiston and Bangor weren’t meeting for the Eastern Class A baseball championship at Morton Field in Augusta on Wednesday.
Top-ranked Lewiston features players who were part of the Gayton Post 31 teams that won state titles in both the American Legion and Junior Legion ranks last summer.
Players from second-seeded Bangor also participated in the 2010 American Legion state tournament as well as advancing to the championship game of last August’s Senior League World Series.
“In preseason we figured it might be Bangor and Lewiston in the East,” said Bangor coach Jeff Fahey, whose team last won an EM title in 2007. “I know our kids want to face the best.”
The Lewiston-Bangor matchup, slated for a 5 p.m. start, is one of two EM finals Wednesday. The Class C title game between the state’s lone remaining undefeated baseball team, Foxcroft Academy, and defending regional champion Calais is set for 7 p.m. at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
Lewiston (17-1) is riding a 13-game winning streak since a 7-6 loss at Cony of Augusta on May 2. Some consider the streak 14 games, given the Blue Devils’ 8-2 victory over Bangor in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A championship game — a non-counting contest in which Bangor did not use any of its top pitchers.
Lewiston, which is seeking its first state championship since 1950, has won two low-scoring playoff games to date, edging No. 8 Hampden Academy 2-1 in the quarterfinals and then topping No. 5 Brunswick 4-0 in last Saturday’s semifinals.
“Defensively they’re solid,” said Fahey. “They’re strong up the middle.”
Bangor (13-3) has rebounded from losing two of its last three regular-season games as well as the KVAC championship game to defeat No. 7 Erskine Academy of South China 5-3 in the quarterfinals and No. 6 Edward Little of Auburn 10-0 in a six-inning semifinal.
“Over the last 10 years, this is one of the better teams we’ve had,” said Fahey, “but I don’t know if we had ever finished the season so poorly. We were kind of reeling, but I think it might be the first time the long layoff after the regular season has actually helped us.”
The Rams field an offense led by sophomore first baseman Anthony Capuano (.500), senior second baseman Seth Freudenberger (.436, 11 stolen bases), senior designated hitter Jacques Larochelle (.385), senior left fielder Luke Hetterman (.367) and senior catcher Dylan Morris (.352).
Senior lefthander Joe Stanevicz, 7-1 this spring, is expected to get the pitching start against Lewiston. He last pitched Friday, working six-plus innings in Bangor’s victory over Erskine.
Lewiston also is expected to go with a lefthander in Corbin Hyde, who hurled a three-hitter in the Blue Devils’ quarterfinal win over Hampden.
Devils, Ponies clash in ‘C’
The Eastern Class C baseball final features the division’s preseason favorite in Calais against one of the surprise teams of the state regardless of class in Foxcroft.
Coach Kenny Murphy’s second-ranked Calais club (14-1-1) returned the nucleus of its 2010 roster that captured the school’s first Eastern Maine title since 1992.
The Calais pitching staff has yet to allow a run in postseason play, shutting out No. 7 Narraguagus 8-0 in the quarterfinals and then getting a no-hitter from junior righthander Adam Geel to shut out No. 6 Lee Academy 12-0 in a five-inning semifinal.
“Calais is the Eastern Maine champion until someone takes that away from them, so we know we’re going to have a very tough battle on our hands,” said first-year Foxcroft coach Mark Chevalier. “They’ve clearly proven that they know how to win big games. Although we haven’t played them this year, we have a sense of the kind of team they are. We think they’re a lot like us in that they pitch well, play great defense and have guys who can hit and run the bases.”
No. 1 Foxcroft (18-0) suffered heavy graduation losses from last year’s top-ranked 15-1 team that was upset by No. 8 Orono in the quarterfinals.
But a new-look roster sparked by sophomore pitchers Ryan Rebar, Kaleb Smith and Jesse Provost enabled the Ponies to extend their regular-season winning streak to 31 games before earning a 12-5 quarterfinal victory over No. 9 Madawaska — thanks to an eight-run, sixth-inning rally — and a 7-1 semifinal win over No. 5 Stearns of Millinocket.
“We had a bit of a scare in round one against Madawaska,” said Chevalier, “but since the sixth inning of that game I think we’ve played our best baseball of the year. We built on our comeback win against Madawaska by playing very well in all phases of the game against an excellent Stearns club.”
Geel (6-1) and Rebar (4-0) are expected to be the starting pitchers in the EM final.
“They obviously have a strong ace in Adam Geel, and we expect to see him Wednesday night,” said Chevalier. “Our only common opponent is Lee Academy, and it’s interesting that both Rebar and Geel shut them out. We expect to be in a close, low-scoring game that will come down to clutch hitting and defensive execution.”