SANFORD — This was supposed to be a season of celebration for Goodall Park and the Sanford Mainers.

It was, after all, the 100th anniversary of the park once graced by Babe Ruth, but events didn’t exactly unfold as planned.

Three weeks ago, a series of thunderstorms washed out all but the Home Run Derby of the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s All-Star Game.

Finally, on Wednesday night, the Mainers had four batters come to the plate with a chance for a game-ending, series-clinching hit.

None delivered.

Instead, a pair of errors paved the way for a second straight 11-inning victory by the North Adams SteepleCats, who won the series two games to one to advance to the Northern Division semifinals against the top-seeded Vermont Mountaineers.

That series begins Thursday night in Montpelier. Vermont swept its opening-round series by a combined score of 23-5.

“I thought we had a great season,” said reliever Cody Dube of Windham, who tossed three innings Wednesday night and returns to Keene State for his senior year after three summers with Sanford. “We had our ups and downs to figure out what kind of a team we had, and then just started playing great baseball down the stretch. We just couldn’t pull away at the end.”

After a rough start (three hits and two errors before recording an out) in the field and at bat (one hit through five innings), the Mainers came alive against the SteepleCats’ bullpen, scratching out a run in the sixth and two in the seventh to make it 4-3. They scored the tying run in the eighth when Dan Hetzel led off with a triple and Sam Dexter (of Messalonskee High and the USM) hit a sacrifice fly to deep left that required a leaping, tumbling catch by Graham McIntire.

In both the ninth and 10th, the Mainers reached base with their leadoff batter and bunted him to second, only to see him stranded with a pair of flyouts in the ninth and a called third strike and another flyout in the 10th.

“To give up three in the top (of the first) before you’ve even hit, it’s easy for a team, especially a summer-league team, to just shut off and say, ‘Well, there goes that elimination game,’ ” said Sanford Manager Aaron Izaryk. “But we didn’t. We fought our way back and executed and competed. And that’s all you can ask for.”

The winning rally by North Adams started with a single by Michael Babb to open the 11th. A potential double-play grounder caromed off the chest of shortstop Brendan Skidmore, putting runners at the corners with one out. A flare near the line in shallow left popped out of Skidmore’s glove after a long run and allowed Babb to score the tiebreaker.

“Skid’s been automatic for us,” Izaryk said. “He’s going to be a tremendous player at Binghamton (University). I mean, he made six errors all regular season, and three of them were in the first week. What happened there, I don’t know. But certainly, you can’t fault the kid for that.”

Sanford again put a runner in scoring position in the 11th but Jared Habershaw struck out the final two batters to preserve the victory.

The second-seeded Mainers had won the opener 5-4 Monday night at Goodall but fell 2-1 in 11 innings Tuesday night in North Adams.

The Mainers went 23-18 in the regular season to reach the playoffs for an eighth straight year.

“It was still a pretty special group,” Izaryk said. “They came together. You’ve got some pretty special athletes on this team. A handful of these guys are going to be playing the game a long time.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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