BANGOR — Playing beneath the lights at one of the state’s premier sporting facilities, the Ellsworth baseball team marked its return to the big stage.
Ellsworth, the top-seeded team in Class B North, had been waiting to play in a high-stakes encounter like this on the diamond for a long time now. Although a regional title wasn’t in the cards for the Eagles on this particular night, the 2018 season was one of which players, coaches and fans can be proud.
Ellsworth fell to Brewer 4-2 in the Class B North championship game Wednesday at Bangor’s Mansfield Stadium. The result was just the second loss of the year for the Eagles, who still had their winningest season since the team’s last Northern Maine title win in 1992.
“It’s a tough way to end it, but this group of players has come a long way,” Ellsworth head coach Dan Curtis said. “They fought until the very end and never gave in at any point. It just didn’t go our way today.”
In the first inning, Conner Wagstaff struck out all three Brewer batters in the top of the first inning, and Ellsworth took a 1-0 lead in the bottom half when Jared Hamilton singled to score Brad Smith from third base. Wagstaff then struck out the side again in the second before Brewer’s Josiah Cyr sent the Eagles down in order.
Yet the No. 2 Witches (14-5) recovered from Wagstaff’s dominant start in the third inning to forced Ellsworth to play from behind for the first time in the 2018 playoff. With runners on second and third, a sacrifice fly from Kobe Rogerson and a single from Cyr gave the designated visitors a 2-1 lead over the Eagles.
The fourth and fifth innings yielded no runs for either team, though Ellsworth (17-2) had an opportunity in the former when it put two runners on before producing back-to-back groundouts. Brewer extended its lead to 3-1 in the sixth when Andrew Kiley tripled to score Rogerson, and it soon became a three-run lead for the Witches when Kiley scored on a Levi Williamson sacrifice fly.
The fourth and fifth innings yielded no runs for either team, though Ellsworth (17-2) had an opportunity in the former when it put two runners on before producing back-to-back groundouts. Brewer extended its lead to 3-1 in the sixth when Andrew Kiley tripled to score Rogerson, and it soon became a three-run advantage for the Witches when Kiley scored on a Levi Williamson sacrifice fly.
Wagstaff finished with 11 strikeouts for Ellsworth in the loss and finished the season 7-1. Hamilton and Jack Lee had the team’s two base hits.
The loss was a disappointing one for Ellsworth but did nothing to diminish the best season the Eagles have had in some time. Led by strong pitching and a good crop of seniors, the Eagles outscored opponents 163-33 this season and went undefeated in the month of May as part of a 15-game winning streak.
“Back when these seniors were freshmen, I tasked them with being the ones who would revive this program,” Curtis said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them for how they responded to that challenge.”
That revival is far from finished. The Eagles will have one of the state’s top pitching duos next year with Wagstaff and Matt Burnett returning to the mound, and junior-to-be Jackson Curtis will return at first base.
Coach Curtis said he will be welcoming a “very talented” group of incoming freshmen as well next season, and with the buzz one of the Eagles’ best seasons in recent memory has generated, the program’s ascent should only continue.
“When you look out at the crowd here with all the parents, the kids and even just other fans who came out to support us, that means more than winning or losing a baseball game,” Curtis said. “People are excited about Ellsworth baseball again, and that’s all because of these boys.”