FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — Dylan Jandreau tries to make the tag on Penobscot Valley’s Grant Doane at second during their Class D North championship baseball game last Wednesday at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor. PVHS pulled out a 3-2 victory.
Top-seeded Penobscot Valley of Howland capitalized on two errors to score twice in the sixth inning, lifting the Howlers to a 3-2 victory at Mansfield Stadium.
Coach Ernie Gerrish’s PVHS ballclub (17-1) earned the school’s first-ever regional baseball title and went on to lose to defending champ Searsport (16-3) in the state championship game Saturday.
Third-seeded Fort Fairfield closed out the season at 12-2. The Tigers had beaten No. 6 Bangor Christian in the quarterfinals and No. 2 Hodgdon in the semis to reach the title game.
Gerrish said there wasn’t a lot of talk about the Howlers’ opportunity to make history, given the pressure it might heighten.
“This is a big stage,” Gerrish said. “You’ve got a whole pile of fans there, you’re below them. It’s a different atmosphere. I tried to prep them as much as I could.”
The Howlers committed three errors, but were resilient. Senior righthander Thomas Spencer, a Mr. Maine Baseball finalist, pitched six innings. He gave up two unearned runs and scattered five hits with two strikeouts and no walks.
“My arm was a little sore and I knew going into it it wasn’t my best stuff,” Spencer admitted. “We did keep battling, my teammates did make some good plays.”
Spencer (8-1) allowed a leadoff single in the seventh before giving way to classmate Jarrett Priest. He immediately struck the Tigers’ Carter Bruce and on the same play PVHS catcher Brad McKechnie gunned out Jared Harvey trying to steal.
“That strikeout-throw out was huge,” Gerrish said.
PVHS struggled early against Fort Fairfield righty Harvey, who allowed only one earned run. The sophomore struck out seven, but finally ran into some difficulty in the pivotal sixth inning when he walked two and was victimized by two errors.
In spite of their limited hits, the Howlers put the ball in play and ran the bases aggressively.
Grant Doane and Priest each had a single for Penobscot Valley, both in the fourth inning.
Coach John Ala’s Tigers posted five hits, all singles, but could not come through in enough clutch situations. Malcolm Langner hit two singles and scored both runs for Fort Fairfield.
“We couldn’t get the leadoff runner on base,” Ala said. “It kind of kept us from being able to develop a big inning.”
Trailing 2-1, Penobscot Valley rallied in the sixth. Freshman No. 9 batter McKechnie sparked the rally with a soft grounder that resulted in a throwing error by the second baseman. McKechnie moved up on a groundout and Batchelder worked a walk, then stole second.
Harvey walked Spencer, and Ball 4 was a wild pitch that allowed the tying run to score. After Spencer stole second, Priest hit a fly ball that was dropped by the left fielder and plated the eventual winning run.
Priest atoned for his two errors by driving in two runs.
“You can’t do anything but just let them go, because it’s just going to get in your head longer,” Priest said.
Bruce came on to get the last two outs.
“We had a costly error or two here today, which was uncharacteristic,” Ala said.
The Tigers grabbed a 1-0 lead with a two-out rally in the second inning. Langner lined an opposite-field single to right, then stole second. Joshua Ricker beat out an infield hit, and a run scored on a throwing error.
PVHS equalized in the fourth inning after Doane singled and stole second but was picked off second. Batchelder rekindled the rally with a walk and moved up on a groundout, then scored on Priest’s soft single to shallow center.
“Just the right hit at the right time and made our hits count,” Spencer said of overcoming the limited hits.
Fort Fairfield regained the lead in the fifth. Langner singled and advanced on an errant pickoff throw by Spencer. Ricker got aboard on a fielding error that allowed the run to score.