WINDHAM — Three of Windham High’s top baseball players had offseason injuries, so expectations were low when the season began. And they didn’t get much higher as the Eagles were inconsistent throughout much of the spring.
The playoffs, though, have been a different story.
After making the Western Class tournament as the 11th seed, Windham (11-9) won four straight games against higher-ranked opponents to earn a spot in Saturday’s state final against Bangor (17-2) at 1 p.m. at St. Joseph’s College.
“It’s been crazy,” said Jack Herzig, Windham’s starting catcher the previous two seasons. An elbow injury has kept Herzig out of the lineup this spring, but he has contributed as a pinch runner and morale booster.
“My sophomore and junior years, we were ranked much higher but lost in the semifinals both times,” he said. “We struggled to make the playoffs (this year), but once we did, we knew anything could happen. We’ve been rolling.”
Pitchers Spencer Hodge and Tanner Laberge, both of whom eventually made it back from injuries, have been dominating in the postseason.
Laberge, who did not allow a hit in 82/3 innings against Marshwood in the regional final, had surgery in February to remove tissue and cartilage from his elbow. He had eight weeks of physical therapy and was limited to the amount and distances of his throws when practice began in late March.
“By midseason, my arm felt great,” he said.
Against Marshwood, Laberge appeared to have as much velocity on his pitches in the ninth inning as he did earlier in the game.
Hodge, who catches when he’s not on the mound, sprained his ankle and broke a bone in his foot midway through basketball season and sat out the rest of the way. He did play in the SMAA’s senior all-star basketball game and said his foot has felt fine this spring.
Hodge has thrown back-to-back five-hitters in the playoffs with a 1.00 ERA and will be the starter against Bangor, with Laberge available in relief if needed.
Herzig was primed to be the catcher once again until his elbow started to bother him during the winter. He found out he had a fracture and a partially torn ligament. He’s unsure when the injury occurred.
“Looking back at my medical records, the doctor thought it might have happened when I was 5 years old,” Herzig said.
Herzig did all the running and conditioning drills when practice started in late March, but knew he wouldn’t have his regular role.
Instead, Herzig has supported his teammates, kept stats, and has been a pinch runner. He scored the first run in the ninth inning of the 2-0 win over Marshwood on Tuesday.
“I try to be the best teammate I can be,” said Herzig. “I’ve pinch run three times this season and scored twice.”
Herzig, Hodge and Laberge said the team’s inconsistent play during the regular season contributed to their 7-9 record. The team had graduated several seniors from last year’s team. Inexperience at several positions also contributed to the slow start.
“Going into the season I didn’t have a lot of confidence because of the players we had lost,” Hodge said. “We couldn’t get our bats going early in the games, and we made a lot of errors in the infield.”
Once the tournament started, it was like the Eagles flipped a switch. The defense has been solid, there’s been timely hitting, and Hodge and Laberge have been impressive on the mound.
There’s no lack of confidence now, said Hodge, as the Eagles try to capture the first baseball state championship in school history.
“I feel we can pull this off,” he said.