BANGOR — Zach Guptill rounded third and glanced at first base. He was expecting to see his Winslow High School teammate Ryan Dubois running out a sacrifice bunt.
When Guptill saw pitcher Brian Bellows’ throw get through and roll down the line, he ran on to home and on to the Class B state championship game.
“We lucked out, right there,” Guptill said. “I saw it was a bad throw and I took off.”
Guptill’s run in the bottom of the ninth gave the Black Raiders a 3-2 win over rival Waterville in the Eastern B championship game, earning Winslow a spot in the state game for the first time since 2007.
Winslow (16-3) will face York for the state title at 4 p.m. Saturday at St. Joseph’s College in Standish. Waterville, which played in its fourth consecutive regional final, ends the season at 16-4.
Guptill led off the bottom of the ninth with a single and went to second on a Logan Hewes base hit. Dubois laid down his bunt, but Waterville second baseman A.J. Godin was late covering first and Bellows’ throw went through, allowing Guptill to score the game-winning run.
“Not well defended on our part. Every single run on the board was unearned,” Waterville coach Don Sawyer said. “It’s too bad to give something like that up on a couple routine plays, but that’s baseball.”
Winslow needed to rally in the bottom of the seventh inning to force extra innings. Down 2-1, Guptill led off the seventh with a single, breaking a string of 15 consecutive outs by Bellows.
“Don’t give up. We never give up. We knew we could come back. We knew we could get that run,” Guptill said.
Added Winslow coach Jesse LaCasse: “I knew we could do it. I mean, we’ve done it before. We’ve put up runs many times.”
Hewes reached on an error while trying to sacrifice bunt and Dubois singled to load the bases with no outs. After an out, Alex Berard’s infield single to short scored Guptill with the tying run.
With the winning run on third base with one out, LaCasse tried to win the game with a suicide squeeze bunt. Bellows dove off the mound to catch Taylor Roy’s pop-up bunt, then ran to third to complete the double play, ending the seventh and sending the game to extra innings.
“You don’t want the double play, so you go for the suicide squeeze. You practice it all year just to hope to get it down that one time, right?” LaCasse said.
Added Sawyer: “That was a good play by Brian coming off the mound. That’s the play he had to make. He had to go for it. We had no other play at that point.”
Waterville took a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth, when Kaleb Kane singled to score Tyler Bouchard, who reached on an error. The way Bellows was pitching, that one-run lead looked secure. After walking Dubois to open the second, Bellows retired 15 Black Raiders in a row before Guptill’s single to start the seventh.
Bellows finished with eight strikeouts and one walk while allowing seven hits.
“That’s the third time we’ve seen (Bellows), and he’s pitched great against us. He had a great game today,” LaCasse said.
Guptill had three of Winslow’s hits off Bellows and said the key was just being aggressive.
“There really wasn’t anything special. I just realized that on first pitch, he was coming straight with a nice strike, so I jumped right on it,” Guptill.
Winslow starter Hewes worked into the sixth inning, allowing three hits and two runs before giving way to Dylan Hapworth, who earned the win.
Each team scored a run in the first. Tyler Bouchard singled to score Dan Pooler and give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
“I thought we had them on the ropes in the first inning. We had the kids up we needed up and all we did was hit pop ups,” Sawyer said.
The Black Raiders answered when Guptill singled up the middle to score Gabe Smith, who reached on an error.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242