STANDISH — Tanner Laberge got stronger in the late innings Tuesday and didn’t allow a hit as No. 11 Windham beat No. 4 Marshwood 2-0 to win the Western Maine Class A baseball title at St. Joseph’s College.
Windham scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning for its first baseball title.
The Eagles (11-9) will play Bangor at 1 p.m. Saturday for the state championship at St. Joseph’s College.
Bangor beat Messalonskee 6-3 to win the Eastern Maine title.
Laberge walked the first two batters in the ninth inning, but Marshwood’s Zack Quintal was thrown out trying to steal third.
Laberge was then taken out and moved to third base, swapping positions with Zach Conley. Conley walked one batter and hit the other, loading the bases.
Windham Coach Brody Artes then brought Laberge back to pitch. Laberge finished it off in grand style, striking out the last two hitters to send the Eagles into a wild celebration.
“I’m glad I got a chance to come back in and finish it,” said Laberge, who finished with seven strikeouts.
Laberge had Marshwood (15-4) hitting the ball at his fielders, who made the plays.
The Hawks came close to getting a hit once. Zach Doyon hit a sharp grounder to the right of second baseman Alex Loftis, who stabbed the grounder and fired to first just beating Doyon.
In the sixth, Noah McDaniel hit a towering fly ball to center with a runner on third that center fielder Andrew Whiting tracked down. Laberge had balked the runner to third.
“Tanner had lost a little of his velocity so that’s why I took him out in favor of Conley,” said Artes.
“But Zach couldn’t get his curve over so I brought Tanner back in.”
Laberge had his velocity back and his control too.
“That was an awesome performance by Laberge,” said Marshwood Coach Eric Fernandes.
“When we couldn’t hit his curve, I knew we couldn’t hit his fastball. He was overpowering. I’ve seen some great pitching in this tournament.”
It was a pitching duel for seven innings between Laberge and Marshwood’s Jake Lebel, who left having allowed four hits.
Nothing much was happening offensively. The Hawks got a runner to second in the first and one to third in the sixth, courtesy of Laberge’s balk. The Eagles got runners to second in the fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
Windham put four hits together in the top half of the inning to score two runs.
Zach Alpern led off with a hit down the left-field line. Pinch-runner Jack Herzig stole second and scored on Spencer Hodge’s sharp grounder just inside the third-base line. Hodge ended up on second and came in on Ethan Petty’s hit that was just out of the grasp of McDaniel as the ball bounded into the outfield.
Laberge threw eight straight balls to walk the first two batters, Quintal and Zach Hodges, in the bottom of the ninth. Laberge got a brief reprieve when Quintal tried to steal third and got thrown out by Hodge, the catcher. Conley relieved and walked McDaniel and hit Lebel.
Laberge came back and finished with a flourish.
“I wasn’t nervous in the ninth inning,” said Laberge. “I just lost my control for a while. My arm feels great.”
Laberge threw 127 pitches.
As for his team coming from the 11th seed to win it all, he said: ” We watched a CD of the 2004 playoffs when the Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees and then go on to win the World Series. ‘Why not us’ has been our motto.”
Windham beat No. 6 Portland in a preliminary-round game, beat No. 3 Biddeford in the quarterfinals and No. 2 Falmouth in the semifinals.
The playoffs lived up to the belief going in that it was wide open.
“We were inconsistent during the regular season,” said Artes. “We would get good pitching, but not the hitting. Then we would get the hitting, but not the pitching. We have two real good pitchers in Tanner and Spencer Hodge. All of our pitchers will be available Saturday. This is a great win, but we’re not done yet.”
Windham lost to Marshwood 10-0 on May 8,
It was the second straight year Marshwood lost in the regional final. The Hawks should be contenders once again as they have only one senior on the team.