STANDISH – The last out had long since passed from Sam Michaud’s right arm to Chris Webb’s outstretched glove at first base and the players had half-hurried off the field, but there was no celebration.
Not from the players, not from coaches, not from a throng of fans who’d traveled all the way from Dyer Brook to be part of the moment. So where was the moment?
The Southern Aroostook Warriors had just won the Class D baseball state championship with a 13-3, mercy rule-shortened victory and everyone was standing around as though they were waiting for their Megabucks numbers to be called.
Even after head coach Murray Putnam told everyone the game was over, nobody dared celebrate until the umpires finally confirmed it by walking off and waving hopeful North Yarmouth Academy players off Ward Field.
“We all knew about the 10-run rule, but we didn’t know if it was in effect,” said Webb, who went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. “It was a big relief when we found out it was.”
Such was the unconventional nature of Saturday afternoon’s game at St. Joseph’s College beneath a clear, blue June sky.
“No, we never expected to have a mercy rule game. Definitely not… At least not with us on the upper end of it,” Putnam said. “I have to admit I’m aware of the mercy rule, but I intentionally said nothing to them [players] about it.
“I’ve seen it happen where you think you have a game in the bag and screwy things happen.”
There was nothing screwy about the pitching performances turned in by Webb and Sam Michaud, who combined for a six-inning, three-hitter.
Webb, who pitched 10 innings Tuesday, was lifted in the fourth as part of a predetermined plan.
“Chris and I talked about that a couple days ago, but I couldn’t really deny him, as a senior, the opportunity to get another shot on the mound,” Putnam said.
The Warriors benefitted from nine unearned runs, courtesy of eight NYA errors, including three in the first inning, when the Warriors took a 4-0 lead.
“We were a little tight, yeah, but we hit them early and got off to a good start,” said Michaud. “We got in a good groove after that.”
As much as the first half-inning helped the Warriors, it hurt the Panthers, according to NYA head coach Bruce Poliquin.
“We have a lot of young players. They were nervous, a couple balls were booted, and it fed on itself,” said Poliquin, who loses only one senior from his 11-9 squad. “Any time you make eight errors, you’re not going to win.
“This was still a great season for us because nobody expected us to be here. We’re just disappointed we didn’t play much better.”
Saturday’s game was only the second state final appearance for the Panthers, who were seeded fourth in the West.
The Warriors, who finish up 12-5, clinched Southern Aroostook’s first baseball state crown in a decade, its fifth overall in 10 appearances.
“These guys are keenly aware of the tradition of this program and the young men who have played before them,” said Putnam, now in his 31st season. “At our [Eastern Maine] final the other day, every era or ballclub that I’ve coached was represented by former players there.”
With only two senior starters, Putnam’s team is well-suited to extend that tradition.
Players such as freshman right fielder Matt McCluskey, who hit his first home run of the season in the second inning. His 320-foot liner to dead left hit the top of the fence and bounced over.
McCluskey stepped in for junior Brandon Lindsay 3 1/2 weeks ago after Lindsay was struck in the head by a ball during batting practice. Lindsay, who has recovered but hasn’t played since the injury due to doctors’ orders, was on hand to watch his team win.
“That just pumped everybody up and I think it made it so everyone in the lineup felt like they could do the same thing,” McCluskey said of his home run.
Rob Betschner certainly did. The junior third baseman whacked a first-pitch fastball with one out in the top of the third some 340 feet to right for a two-run home run.
And then there was sophomore catcher Jordan Shields, who celebrated his 16th birthday a day early with two RBIs on sacrifice flies.
“This is sweet,” said the birthday boy. “I’ve been waiting for this since I was a little kid and this is a real nice present.”
Class D baseball
Warriors 13, Panthers 3 (6 inn.)
Southern Aroostook (12-5) North Yarmouth (11-9)
Name ab r h bi Name ab r h bi
Gordon, cf 2 2 1 1 Fortin, cf-p 1 2 0 0
Hardy, ss 4 3 1 0 Weaver, 3b 3 1 2 1
Michaud, 1b-p 4 1 1 0 Thomas, 2b-ss 1 0 0 0
Webb, p-1b 3 1 2 2 Molander, p-1b 2 0 0 0
Betschner, 3b 4 3 2 2 Lchnce,1b-lf-2b 3 0 1 2
Shields, c 1 0 0 2 Dobnowolski, c 3 0 0 0
Hersey, lf 4 0 0 0 D.Torti, rf 2 0 0 0
Swallow, 2b 3 1 1 0 a-Mascetta 1 0 0 0
McCluskey, rf 3 2 1 1 Weimer, lf-cf 2 0 0 0
b-Harper 1 0 0 0
McKenney, ss-p 2 0 0 0
c-M.Torti 1 0 0 0
Totals 28 13 9 8 Totals 22 3 3 3
a-grounded out for D.Torti in sixth
b-flied out for Weimer in sixth
c-grounded out for McKenney in sixth
Southern Aroostook 412 411 – 13
North Yarmouth Academy 210 000 – 3
E – Hardy, Webb; Fortin, Thomas, Dobnowolski, D. Torti, Weimer, McKenney 3 3B – Betschner HR – Betschner (2), McCluskey (1) LOB – Southern Aroostook 3; North Yarmouth 6 DP – D. Torti-Lachance SB – Hardy; Weaver, Thomas SF – Shields 2, Webb
PITCHER IP H R ER BB SO
Webb 3 3 3 3 3 2
Michaud (W,2-4) 3 0 0 0 1 2
Molander (L,4-4) 2 1/3 4 7 3 2 0
Fortin 1 3 4 0 0 1
McKenney 2 2/3 2 2 1 1 3
WP – Webb PB – Dobnowolski BK – Fortin TIME – 1:51 ATTENDANCE – 500 (est.)