Even though Westbrook High was winning baseball games, Coach Greg Souza felt in early May that his team should be playing better.
So after a loss to Windham, Souza called a team meeting. Westbrook hasn’t lost since and will play Messalonskee for the Class A state baseball title at 2 p.m. Saturday at Morton Field in Augusta.
York Coach Chuck Chadbourne knew he had some good athletes when he took over the program at the start of the season. It was just a matter of nurturing a baseball mentality.
The Wildcats have gotten hot at the right time. They will play Winslow for the Class B state title at 4 p.m. Saturday at St. Joseph’s College.
Westbrook will be in its third state final after losses in 1971, the second year of the statewide playoff system, and 2005.
York won its only state Class B baseball championship in 1971.
Westbrook has won eight straight games, showing a consistency that was lacking in the regular season.
“We were playing OK but not great,” said Souza. “The reason we were winning was because of our pitching. We weren’t making the plays we should have been making. Too many fly balls in the outfield that should have been caught weren’t being caught. We are where we are because the players have responded.”
The air was cleared and Westbrook has become a different team.
“The meeting pumped us up,” said third baseman Derek Bouchard. “Our team chemistry got stronger.”
Bouchard is a player who stepped up his game from a year ago, when he was on the junior varsity.
Several players, Bouchard included, worked with Ken Joyce, a minor league hitting instructor, last winter. The team had a couple of hitting cages installed at the former Westcott Junior High.
The Blazes knew they had talent when the season began. Most of the team had played on the Junior American Legion team that won the New England regional two summers ago.
“I thought we had the best team when the season started,” said pitcher/first baseman Keenan Lowe.
York felt the same way although Falmouth, the defending state champion, and Greely were getting most of the attention.
“We have a bunch of multi-sport athletes who have come together,” said Chadbourne. “They’ve been dominant in other sports. It was just a question of them grasping a baseball IQ.”
York missed getting a first- round bye, losing to Yarmouth 5-2 in the regular-season finale. The Wildcats beat Spruce Mountain in a preliminary-round game, setting up a rematch with Yarmouth in the quarterfinals.
“We put it all together against Yarmouth. At that point we started to feel maybe we could do something in the tournament,” said Chadbourne.
After each win, the players soon focused on their next game.
Both Westbrook and York have a nice mix of veterans and underclassmen. Sophomores Derek Neal and Cole Merritt, and freshman Sam Johnson all batted over .400 for York. Senior Zach Leal batted close to .400 and led the team with 18 RBI.
Westbrook has a strong junior class, led by the SMAA batting champion, Kyle Heath, and shortstop Collin Joyce. Austin Blake and Kaleb Kent have been hot at the plate in recent games.
Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: