Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Richmond fans waited for the other cleat to drop during the seventh inning of Saturday’s Class D state championship baseball game. They had seen victories slip away in state title games many times before.
Not this time, though. Senior pitcher Nick Woods survived a bases loaded jam in the final inning to preserve a 7-4 win over Central Aroostook. It gave the Bobcats a pair of titles Saturday since the softball team also won.
Prior to Saturday, this year’s seniors have been involved in seven state championship games to varying degrees and had won just one — a 2007 soccer title. They had either run up against an Eastern Maine juggernaught or found a way to lose.
In the 2008 basketball state title game, they lost by one point at the buzzer. In last year’s state baseball game, they blew a lead and lost in extra innings to Deer-Isle Stonington. Two years ago, the soccer team lost 5-4 after holding a two-goal lead in the second half.
Woods, was 0 for 6 in state title games while catcher Bruce Carver was 1 for 7. The odd thing about Saturday’s championship is hardly anyone saw it coming. The Bobcats have had many deeper, more talented teams since they won their last baseball title in 1996.
But this one seemed to have fate on its side. They had just four hits in their regional final win against Greenville, scoring two runs on a suicide squeeze in the bottom of the seventh for a 2-1 victory.
Saturday, the Bobcats only had four hits again to 10 for Central Aroostook. But they took advantage of nine walks and five errors to pull it out.
Head coach Ryan Gardner and assistant Phil Houdlette recognized a flaw in their team a couple of weeks ago — too many errors — and corrected it. Against Greenville, late in the regular season, the Bobcats committed 10 errors. In their three playoff games, they committed a total of one.
This year’s team did have some good players, especially its seniors, but it also had a mixture of newcomers searching for their roles. It will, I believe, ultimately go down as a team that over-achieved.
And there really is no better feeling than that.
Travis Lazarczyk has worked at the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal since 2000. He covers football, basketball and baseball. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/tlazarmaine