Westbrook High will savor its Class A state baseball championship for a while.
And rightly so. It’s been a long time coming. It was the first baseball state title for the school in 62 years, and the first under the statewide playoff format that started in 1970.
The Blue Blazes beat last year’s champion, Messalonskee of Oakland, 2-0 on Saturday.
Westbrook has always been a strong baseball community. In the 1960s, the Blue Blazes had some excellent teams, but there were no state playoffs. With the likes of pitchers John Cumberland, 6-foot-7 Mike Mazerolle, Marc Flaherty and Don Douglas, and hitters like Ricky Swan, Westbrook might have won a couple state titles. Cumberland, a lefty, won nine games for the San Francisco Giants in 1971.
The 1971 team with future Maine Baseball Hall of Famers Tony DiBiase and John Mullen, lost to Bangor in the state final.
More recently, the Blazes battled powerhouse Deering teams that went on to win state titles.
The 2005 team, with current Westbrook pitching coach Andrew Keirstead and Anthony D’Alfonso, who went on to star at USM, lost to Oxford Hills in the state final on the same field, Morton Field in Augusta, where the current Blazes won Saturday.
The city of Westbrook supports its teams, and the Westbrook Baseball Boosters are among the best organized of any booster group in the state.
This title was for all of them.
While the players, coaches and school will savor this championship, it doesn’t hurt to look ahead to next season, when the Blazes should be strong again.
Returning are junior starters Kyle Heath, Collin Joyce, Kaleb Kent, Ryan Gilligan and Austin Blake. The team will lose its top two pitchers in Keenen Lowe and Zack Bean, but Coach Greg Souza and Keirstead should be able to find some arms in the program.
Said Bean of the prospects for next season: “The juniors definitely have some runs left in them.”
IT HAD BEEN so long since York High had won a baseball state championship — 1971 — that even the Maine Principals’ Association didn’t have a record of it.
That title — a 17-1 victory over Shead, according to Ted Welch, the Wildcats’ athletic director — came the year before the MPA started tracking championships in Class C.
Welch said there were a couple other titles back in the 1960s, before there were statewide playoffs.
Maybe that’s why there was such joy Saturday afternoon at St. Joseph College’s Mahaney Diamond after York defeated Winslow 4-1 for the Class B title. Players, coaches, parents and friends lingered long after the game was over to talk about what had just happened.
Chuck Chadbourne, the York coach, knew why it happened.
“The key to the success of this season is a bunch of seniors who had knocked on the door in bunch of different sports that bought into a couple of coaches coming in who were going to demand a ton from them,” he said. “That meant practices six days a week for two hours, and playing in the summertime, and not only did they buy in but they got better. And they got better and they got better.
“So it’s been an amazing, amazing experience.”
Many of the Wildcats had advanced to the Western Maine championship game in both football and boys’ basketball. Alex Mercurio, the senior catcher, was a state finalist in wrestling.
Mercurio threw out two runners trying to steal second. And senior Adam Bailey put in a command performance on the mound, allowing just six hits and never letting Winslow get anything going.
He was aided by a three-run first inning.
“We’ve done that the last few games,” he said of taking an early lead. “And it gives you a lot of confidence, helps get you going. Knowing your teammates have your back, no matter what, gives you a lot of confidence.”
Mercurio said Bailey’s performance wasn’t out of the ordinary.
“He’s got crazy, crazy stuff,” said Mercurio. “He has solid pitches and that’s what you need in this league.”
Mercurio said every one of the Wildcats had something to prove in the state final.
“There was a lot of stuff to get back,” he said. “We did it for the town.”
FOR THE SECOND straight game, Scarborough senior second baseman Marisa O’Toole put on quite a show in the Class A softball final against Skowhegan, leading the Red Storm to a 9-3 victory.
O’Toole, whose fifth-inning, two-run homer Wednesday in the regional final started Scarborough’s comeback in a 5-2 win over Sanford, wasted little time getting the Red Storm in the state final. She led off the game with a home run to left, then added a two-run triple to right in the second inning.
“I’ve been saying this right along, she’s one of the top four, five players in the state,” Scarborough Coach Tom Griffin said. “She didn’t make first-team all-star in our own league, which scratches my head. I don’t understand. I don’t get it, but she just got an opportunity in the playoffs to prove herself. Everybody got the chance to see the type of ballplayer she is.”
O’Toole and fellow senior captains Grace Farnkoff (shortstop) and Erin Giles (third base/pitcher) were everyday heart-of-the-order starters. All three are headed to NESCAC softball programs. O’Toole will go to Bowdoin, Farnkoff to Colby, and Giles to Middlebury.
Seniors Mary Redmond, Paige Moore-Haskell and Sydney Litrocapes had to find and accept less noticeable ways to contribute. Redmond and Moore-Haskell became pinch-running specialists. Both scored as courtesy runners in the championship game.
“That was their role. They’re our two fastest players and that’s how they could help us the most,” Griffin said.
Litrocapes was the team’s top pinch-hitter, but with such a strong starting lineup, she knew her opportunities would be few.
It could have been a hard role to accept, especially for someone who has played softball since a young age.
“I love playing with these girls,” said Litrocapes. “They’re so much fun to play with. Getting a lot of playing time really didn’t matter that much to me because I like playing with the team.”
The three senior reserves had consecutive at-bats in the seventh inning as pinch hitters. Griffin said he felt it was the right thing to do, and they produced. Litrocapes worked a lengthy at-bat before singling sharply up the middle. Redmond followed with a walk, and Moore-Haskell hit a sharp grounder to short that resulted in an error to load the bases. Litrocapes and Redmond scored on a pinch-hit single by sophomore Brittany Plowman.
SCARBOROUGH FRESHMAN outfielder Chloe Gorey barely stands 5 feet tall. Maybe that’s one reason why she wasn’t projected as a varsity player when the season began and was not among the 20 or so players who made the Red Storm’s semi-annual preseason trip to Florida.
“Then tryouts came and we were like, this kid has prepared herself all winter and she’s far more advanced than we thought she was, and we really, really regretted we didn’t take her to Florida,” Griffin said.
Batting eighth and starting in right field throughout the playoffs, Gorey shored up the outfield defense and produced at the plate. She had an RBI hit in three of the four playoff games, and scored twice against Skowhegan.
“It just goes to show, it’s not where you start that matters, it’s where you finish,” Griffin said.
TUCKED UP in the corner of the Oceanside softball dugout was a 10-pound bag of Aroostook County potatoes. One of the team’s biggest boosters had given the bag to Coach Rusty Worcester in the Eastern Class B tournament as sort of a good-luck charm and, Worcester said, “This bag was going to go everywhere we went.”
Some of the Oceanside players remembered the last time they played at St. Joseph’s College. Before Oceanside was formed two years ago by the merger of Georges Valley and Rockland, Georges Valley was a regular participant in Western Class C championship games.
The last time they played, the Buccaneers lost to Telstar on a walk-off hit that landed on the right-field foul line — a lot of chalk came up.
“This is much better,” said senior first baseman Kennadi Grover, who was on that team.
Worcester agreed: “This is great. The kids got it done.”
GREELY FELL short of its dream of winning a state championship, but the Rangers have a bright future.
Of the 10 players in the starting lineup (including second baseman Lexi Faietta, the “flex” player who does not bat), seven were sophomores or freshmen.
Dani Cimino, the starting pitcher and only senior, said, “Now they have this experience, they know what it’s like to play on the big field, they’ve seen big hitters the program will go up from here.”
Jessica Gomez, the Rangers’ first-year coach, knows she’ll have to replace Cimino — who’s heading to Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., a Division III softball power — but likes everything she has in place.
“It’s been absolutely amazing,” she said. “The kids have been absolutely amazing. Anything I ask them to do, they do it, whether in practice or game, and they do it to the best of their ability. You can’t ask anything more as a coach.”
She said this championship game experience will be vital. “Think of the level they came from — the eighth grade,” she said. “They’ve come a long way.”
SCARBOROUGH’S 15-4 victory over Cheverus marked the fourth straight Class A title in boys’ lacrosse for the Red Storm, the longest such stretch for any school since the Maine Principals’ Association first sanctioned the sport in 1998.
Coach Joe Hezlep gave credit to his nine seniors, who learned from the example set by their predecessors and a best-practice approach.
“Our best competition usually is our day-to-day practice,” Hezlep said. “We get out and we play hard, and it really does a good job of setting the stage for the next year. These kids are used to playing at a really high level in practice.”
Senior attack John Wheeler, who led the team in scoring for a fourth straight season, said the Red Storm defense often frustrated the offense in practice.
“They make us struggle,” he said. “It wasn’t actually until the end of the year that we started getting success, and that’s when our passes were getting crisper and our offense started to click a lot more.”
THE PIVOTAL GOAL in Cape Elizabeth’s 7-4 victory over Yarmouth in the Class B boys’ lacrosse final came after a fast-break pass from Justin Cary to Alex Bornick that probably wouldn’t have happened a year ago, when both were juniors and involved in their own brand of one-upsmanship.
“We did have some competition,” Bornick admitted, “and it withheld us from passing the ball to each other sometimes. But this year, we let that go. We didn’t care about personal points, didn’t care about stats. We cared about end results.”
Cary said his plan was to shoot, but a Yarmouth defenseman who clearly knew of Cary’s fondness for going down low had blocked that avenue. So Cary passed not to Bornick, but to where he knew Bornick would cut in front of the net. The result was a 6-4 lead for Cape Elizabeth with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
“That was a show of unselfishness,” Bornick said, “that shows his strength as a player and as a friend,” Bornick said.
THE MAINE PRINCIPALS’ Association awarded its sportsmanship banners for boys’ lacrosse to Biddeford (Western Class A), Oxford Hills (Eastern Class A), Greely (Western Class B) and Freeport (Eastern Class B).
For girls’ lacrosse, the sportsmanship awards went to Marshwood (Western Class A), McAuley (Eastern Class A), Fryeburg Academy (Western Class B) and Lincoln Academy (Eastern Class B).
SADIE COLE of Waynflete, Molly Ryan of Falmouth and Lauren Steidl were named All-Americans by U.S. Lacrosse. Alex Bernier of Falmouth, Alexandra Logan of Cheverus and Martha Veroneau received honorable mention honors.
– Staff Writers Tom Chard, Steve Craig, Mike Lowe and Paul Betit contributed to this report.