Eagles claim Class B baseball state crown

By Mark Haskell

GORHAM — The top-ranked Ellsworth baseball team had its backs against the wall throughout the Class B North playoffs.

The Eagles’ largest margin of victory through the high school regional postseason tournament was a three-run win over Hermon in the quarterfinals.

The Hancock County squad needed late-inning heroics to defeat Lawrence of Fairfield and Old Town in the semifinals and regional championship, as those diamond victories came via walk-off hits — and with considerable excitement, nervousness and trepidation for Eagle followers.

“I think we scared everybody throughout the playoffs,” said Ellsworth senior Hunter Curtis. “Our parents were a little nervous. They might have been having heart attacks every single game.”

So, why would the state Class B championship game be any different?

Trailing 2-0 in the top of the seventh inning against Freeport in the state title game on Saturday, June 18 at Ed Flaherty Field on the University of Southern Maine campus, Ellsworth plated three runs in the final regulation frame — and the Falcons stranded the tying run at second base in the bottom of the stanza — as the Eagles clinched the coveted state Class B crown with a 3-2 win.

The victory gave Ellsworth (19-1) its second state Class B title in three seasons and fifth overall (2022, 2019, 1988, 1987, 1983). The Eagles also have been state runners-ups five times.

Freeport, which won its third consecutive Class B South title to advance to Saturday’s state final, saw its campaign conclude at 16-5.

“It’s amazing,” said Ellsworth coach Dan Curtis. “This is an amazing group of kids. They’re tough, resilient, I could rattle off all kinds of things, but they just don’t quit. They have no fear. I’m just proud of them. I really am.”

Team members for Ellsworth, coached by Dan Curtis, included Hunter Curtis, Michael Palmer, Dan Howie, Brett Brandon, David Baugh, Craig Burnett, Billy Garland, Drew Cote, Peter Keblinsky, Brady Kenny, Wyatt Brogdon, Camden Barker, Kyle Kenny, Luke Horne, Hunter Boles, Brayden King, Hollis Grindal and Miles Palmer.

Team members for Freeport, coached by Steve Shukie, included Nathan Abbott, Zane Aguilar, Ben Bolduc, Arlo Boutuneria, Adam Chamberland, Blaine Cockburn, Aaron Converse, Colin Cronin, Tristan Francis, Aidan Heath, Gus Hollen, Devin Lamb, Robert Landry, Thomas Roy, Keigan Shea, Kempton Von Glinsky-Gregoire, Harry Walker, Gus Wing and Bobby Pawlowski.

The Eagles were led at the plate Saturday by Hunter Curtis, who singled in the sixth and had a two-run, two-out double in the seventh that gave Ellsworth a 3-2 lead.

Baugh (single), Burnett (single), Michael Palmer (single, run), King (run) and Miles Palmer (single, run) also chipped in offensively for Ellsworth.

For the Falcons, Shea (single), Von Glinsky-Gregoire (double, single, 2 runs, 2 stolen bases), Cockburn (single, steal), Abbott (single), Converse (single) and Wing (single) paced the offense.

The opponents made three errors, as two of Freeport’s three fielding miscues came in the seventh.

Coach Curtis said: “I feel for Freeport” and “they played a good game and honestly outplayed us until the end.”

“We snatched it away,” the coach said. “We were lucky enough to get it done in the seventh inning.”

Burnett and Abbott worked the hill and went the distance for their clubs. Burnett allowed seven hits, one walk and hit a batter, to go along with three strikeouts for Ellsworth, while Abbott allowed four hits and no walks, with three strikeouts.

“I thought Burnett battled really well,” said coach Curtis of his senior hurler. “The two runs I believe were unearned, but he just battled. He didn’t let it bother him [giving up those runs] and kept doing his job and we were able to come through for him when it mattered.”

The Falcons wasted little time as they took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Von Glinsky-Gregoire doubled, stole third base and eventually scampered home on an error.

Then, in the fifth, Freeport doubled its advantage when Von Glinsky-Gregoire singled, stole second base and again came in on a fielding miscue by Ellsworth.
Meanwhile, Abbott continued to deal on the hill for Freeport and kept Ellsworth off-balance at the plate.

Then, in the seventh, the Eagle bats came to life.

“I knew we just needed to take a few deep breaths,” said Hunter Curtis. “That seventh inning, we’ve been in that spot so many times.”

Michael Palmer rapped a one-out single and eventually scored after Howie and Miles Palmer reached on back-to-back Falcon errors.

Then, after a strikeout, Hunter Curtis connected on a two-run double to plate King — who pinch-ran for Howie — and Miles Palmer, the latter of whom scored with style points on a headfirst slide to give the Eagles a 3-2 lead and the coveted state title.

“He really wasn’t locating his curveball,” said Hunter Curtis of Freeport’s hurler. “I was expecting fastball away even after he threw that first pitch strike for a fastball. I knew another one was coming.”

Dan Curtis, Hunter’s father, said the fact his son collected the game-winning hit — the day before Father’s Day no less — “was pretty special.”

“He’s been that clutch guy for this group of kids in basketball, baseball since he was four years old,” he said.

“It’s been an emotional four years,” said Hunter Curtis. “Nobody gets to see it in practice, but we butt heads a little bit like any father and son might do. But it is super special. I love my dad and it’s been fun riding with him.”

Freeport had back-to-back, two-out hits by Abbott and Aguiar in the seventh, but the final batter grounded out as the Ellsworth celebration began on the second base bag.

Hunter Curtis was one of six seniors on this year’s team and was one of three starters as a freshman when Ellsworth defeated Freeport 2-0 in the state Class B title game in 2019.

“It probably is a little sweeter just because we led this team,” he said of the team’s 2022 state title victory. “I know we wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are right now without the Conner Wagstaff’s and Matt Burnett’s my freshman year. They taught us so many things.”

There were no Maine high school spring sports in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Previously, the Eagles, the top-seed in Class B North, defeated No. 9 Hermon 3-0 in the quarterfinals, No. 4 Lawrence of Fairfield 3-2 in the semifinals and No. 2 Old Town 3-2 in the regional final.

The Falcons, the third seed in Class B South, defeated No. 14 Gray-New Gloucester 2-1 in the prelims, No. 6 York 3-0 in the quarterfinals, No. 15 Lake Region of Naples 5-0 in the semifinals and top-seeded Greely of Cumberland 2-1 in the regional final.

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