Sunday, June 22, 2014

WHS boys baseball head to State Championship game - By Jim Beers

Two weeks ago the Windham High School baseball team was dreaming about post-season play. Tuesday night the Windham High School Eagles baseball team was no longer dreaming as it faced fourth seeded Marshwood at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish. Before that game the Eagles successfully knocked off Portland, Biddeford and Falmouth, all on the road. Number 11 seed Windham blew into the Western Maine Championship game on a serious roll. 

Junior Tanner Laberge and the Eagles took on the challenge, and did they ever respond. After a shaky first inning, Laberge settled in on the mound over the middle innings to keep the Marshwood bats silent.

"Tanner's a competitor, he wanted the ball tonight, and to feed off that energy the crowd provided for us," said coach Brody Artes. 

Marshwood starter, Jake Labell was equal to the task, limiting the Eagle offense to two singles thru seven innings, both by Zach Alpern. Labell and Laberge were locked in pitcher's duel, with both defenses treating the capacity crowd to several great plays. 

"Our defense gobbled everything up behind Tanner, that's a great hitting team over there, maybe the best in the league," Artes said. With no runs for either side, it was not decided after seven innings, the game went into extra baseball in the western Maine title game. 

To the top of the ninth, the Eagles had been knocking at the door all game long, and looked poised to kick it in. Alpern led off with his third single, a laser past third base. Insert senior Jack Herzig to pinch run, as Spencer Hodge dug in at the plate. On a 2-1 count, Herzig stole second base, narrowly missing the tag by the Marshwood shortstop. Hodge then ripped a fastball off the third baseman's glove and into left field. Herzig came all the way around to score giving Windham the 1-0 lead, which threw the Eagle crowd into a frenzy. On the throw home, Hodge smartly took second base. Next up Ethan Petty slammed the first pitch he saw up the middle for a run-scoring single, plating Hodge, making it 2-0 Windham. 

To the bottom of the ninth, Laberge attempted to finish the game, but walked the first two hitters he faced. Coach Artes immediately brought in third baseman Zack Conley to quell the uprising. 

"Tanner was losing his velocity, and had thrown a lot to this point," said Artes. Conley immediately struggled a bit with getting a curve over, and there were no outs and runners on first and second. Marshwood attempted a steal, but Hodge gunned him down at third for a first out. Another walk issued, then a hit batsmen loaded the bases for Marshwood. Laberge returned to the mound from third base, and he took care of business by striking out the next two hitters to seal the 2-0, (first-ever for Windham), Western Maine title victory. He and Conley combined for keeping the Hawks hit-less and score-less.. 

The Eagles (11-9) advance to Saturday's State Championship, against Bangor. The game will be played at Saint Joseph’s College at 1 p.m. 

"It’s the character of these kids, year in and year out, they keep their nose to the grindstone," added Artes. "We will see what happens. We've had great pitching performances in these playoffs, taking down the number two, three and four seeds. Everyone will be available to go. We've had one goal in mind all season long and here we are," said Artes, obviously proud of his team. It really has been a storybook run for the Eagles, with one more chapter to write. 

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