BANGOR, Maine — The Katahdin Cougars did the Bangor Christian baseball team a big favor back on May 29 — they beat the Patriots.
Bangor Christian, the defending Class D state champion, was attempting to cap off an undefeated regular season this spring when Katahdin’s Billy Livezey scored the winning run in the seventh inning of a 5-4 victory by the Cougars.
The Patriots’ playoff foes have been paying the price for that result ever since.
Coach Mike Poulin’s club capped off a dominant three-game run to its second straight Eastern Maine title with a 17-0, five-inning victory over Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook in Thursday night’s regional final at Mansfield Stadium.
“We were humbled,” said Bangor Christian junior right-hander Cody Collins of the loss to Katahdin. “Coach was telling us to take it one game at a time but, sure enough, we looked right by Katahdin, and they smacked us right in the mouth. It woke us right up, and we’ve been focused ever since.”
After defeating Southern Aroostook in a rematch of the 2012 Eastern D championship game, second-ranked Bangor Christian now faces a rematch of last spring’s state final when it faces Buckfield at noon Saturday at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish. Top-seeded Buckfield (14-1) defeated Richmond 8-5 to win the Western D title Thursday.
That game is one of four baseball state finals scheduled around the state Saturday. Messalonskee of Oakland will try to win its second straight Class A crown when it faces Westbrook in a 2 p.m. start at Morton Field in Augusta. Stearns of Millinocket will play defending Class C state champion Dirigo of Dixfield for the Class C title at 2 p.m. at Mansfield Stadium.
The Class B matchup between Winslow and York is slated for 4 p.m. at Saint Joseph’s College.
Bangor Christian (18-1), which defeated Buckfield 7-3 last June, enters this year’s meeting having outscored its three Eastern Maine postseason foes by a combined 37-0. The Patriots’ pitching staff, led by senior Ben Bragg and junior Cody Collins, has pitched three consecutive one-hitters — with all three games ending early under the 10-run rule.
And after scoring 10 runs in both its quarterfinal win over Woodland and semifinal victory over Wisdom of Saint Agatha, Bangor Christian erupted for 18 hits against Southern Aroostook as eight different Patriots had at least two hits.
Call it a case of a team jolted into peaking at the right time by an unexpected setback.
“That loss made us really think that we have to focus on what we do best, to get back in the cage hitting, to not fool around anymore and to really stick with what we do,” said senior catcher Rem Poulin. “Since then we’ve been going right straight forward.”
In Class A, sixth-ranked Messalonskee (13-6) knocked off the top three seeds in Eastern A — No. 3 Bangor, No. 2 Hampden Academy and No. 1 Oxford Hills of South Paris 3-2 in Thursday’s final — to earn a return trip to the state game.
Eagles’ coach Ray Bernier has employed a pitching-by-committee strategy during his team’s playoff run, and not only has Messalonskee yielded just five runs in its three postseason wins to date, the entire pitching staff is eligible for Saturday’s clash with Westbrook.
Westbrook (16-3) was the No. 4 seed in Western A, and like Messalonskee coach Greg Souza’s club has been particularly stingy on the mound. The Blue Blazes have allowed just six runs in their last six games, including a 5-0 victory over Marshwood of South Berwick in the regional final.
In Class C, top-ranked Stearns (17-2) has employed a pitching-by-committee approach while surging to its first Eastern Maine crown since winning the state title in 2000. Seniors Jordan Morrow — a finalist for the state’s Mr. Baseball award — and Kyle McVey and sophomore Nick Dumas have figured into the rotation, with Morrow and Dumas eligible to work against Dirigo.
The Minutemen are riding a 15-game winning streak since a 2-2 start to the season, while Dirigo (17-2) has won 13 games in a row, including a 15-3 drubbing of Saint Dominic of Auburn in the Western D final.
The top-seeded Cougars will be seeking their third state championship in the last four years after defeating Calais in both 2010 and 2012.
In Class B, Winslow’s pitching depth will be tested as it seeks its first state championship since 1995.
The second-ranked Black Raiders’ top two starters, Dylan Hapworth and Logan Hewes, both worked more than three innings during the team’s 3-2, nine-inning victory over Waterville in the Eastern Maine final.
That means the start against York likely will go to Donald Camp, one of five seniors on the roster.
“Don Camp has been a gamer for us all year,” said Winslow coach Jesse LaCasse, whose team takes a 16-3 record into Saturday’s play. “I think he has just one loss for us, and there’s no doubt he’s ready.”
Fifth-ranked York (15-5) has used pitching as the foundation for its run to the Western B crown, yielding just three runs in four postseason games. The Wildcats advanced by knocking off three of the top four seeds in the region, including second-ranked and 2012 state champion Falmouth 5-1 in the final.