Editor’s note: This is the second installment of our new series, “Remember When,” in which we revisit some of the memorable games, events, streaks and runs in high school spring sports we’ve covered over the last few decades.

WATERVILLE — When fans look back at the big games, the ones they remember the most, it’s usually one or two details that stand out. With the 2011 Class B state championship baseball game, the little details come at you quickly, tumbling over each other like a waterfall.

“I think that’s the game I remember most of all of them,” said former Waterville coach Don Sawyer.

The final score: Waterville 1, Greely 0. It gave the the Purple Panthers back-to-back state crowns. A 1-0 score sounds like a well-played pitcher’s duel, and it was, but it had so much more.

“It was such a close game. I think, if I remember correctly, the delay was longer than the game itself,” said Kyle Bishop, Waterville’s left fielder. “We had a confident group. We kind of expected to be there.”

It never rained at St. Joseph College’s Larry Mahaney Diamond in Standish that day, but thunderstorms were close by. When umpires saw a flash of lightning in the bottom of the second inning with Greely at bat, the teams had to leave the field.

The delay lasted 1 hour and 47 minutes. Waterville and Greely waited it out on their buses. The Purple Panthers drove to a shopping center in nearby Windham to get snacks. Talk focused on what the Panthers needed to do to scratch across a few runs. Waterville already knew it was going to be a tight, low scoring game.

“We just kept talking about the game plan. It definitely helped calm the nerves,” Waterville shortstop Mark Beckim said about the delay.

Normally, Beckim was in center field. But an injury to starting shortstop Tyler Bouchard forced Sawyer to juggle his defense a little. Beckim moved to shortstop, a position he’d played some in previous seasons. Racean Wood moved to center field. Lance Lefebvre played third base for Waterville, a position Sawyer knew wasn’t his best, but one he could play.

Members of the Waterville baseball team celebrate after they defeated Greely in the 2011 Class B state title game. Contributed photo

The previous season, Beckim played shortstop when then-senior Josh Gaudette pitched.

“Fortunately, I had a lot of experience at shortstop,” Beckim said. “Being a utility player, it was OK with me.”

As Waterville players loaded up on snacks and drinks, Sawyer got a call from athletic director Doug Frame back at St. Joe’s. The Purple Panthers needed to get back to the field quickly, because they wanted to restart the game in 15 minutes. First, starting pitcher Tim Locke had to warm up again. Locke did not throw many pitches before the delay. There was no question he’d return to the mound.

“I definitely expected to go back out. I had to warm up again, but I didn’t expect Coach Sawyer to pull me out,” Locke said.

“In the first inning, Tim picked somebody off. You hate to stop it when things like that are happening,” Sawyer added. “He warmed up with Aidan (freshman catcher Aidan FitzGerald). Kyle was ready. Locke said ‘I feel better than I did at the beginning of the game.'”

Locke was definitely better. Dominant all season, with an ERA below 1.00, Locke didn’t give up a hit to a Greely batter until the fourth inning. He finished the game allowing three hits with eight strikeouts.

“Tim was lights out his whole high school career, but that year he was dominant. They got a few base runners, but they weren’t touching him,” said Bishop, who is now the Hall-Dale High School baseball coach.

That season, Locke and Bishop combined to go 15-0 with a 0.44 ERA, striking out 123 in 95 innings. The best one-two pitching tandem in Maine in 2011, the pair were featured in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd.

The Waterville baseball team won the 2011 Class B state championship, 1-0 over Geely. Kyle Bishop, a standout on the team, still has the game ball. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

“He threw a really good slider low and away to (right-handed hitters). Then he’d come with a fastball inside,” said Beckim, who had an up close view of Locke’s pitching brilliance that day.

Locke felt his fastball was his best pitch that day, and his curve worked too.

“It seemed everything was pretty consistent,” he said.

Waterville got Locke the only run support he’d need in the top of the fourth. Locke the hitter was right in the middle of the mini rally. He singled down the third base line, then went to second base on Bishop’s single to left. FitzGerald, the freshman catcher playing in the biggest game of his young career, followed with a bloop single to right field. Coaching third base, Sawyer waved Locke home.

“I couldn’t believe Coach Sawyer sent me. If the catcher turned, he probably could’ve tagged me,” said Locke, who works at Huhtamaki in Waterville.

“What a great job base running. Tim wasn’t the most fleet of foot guy we had,” Sawyer added.

From there, Locke the pitcher wriggled out of a few jams to keep the Rangers from tying the game. In the bottom of the fourth, Greely had runners on first and second base with two outs. Locke struck out Rangers pitcher Mike Leeman to end the threat.

“A 3-2 count with two on, two out. Coach Sawyer called a curveball. I thought, well, he calls the shots. But I threw it across the plate and struck him out,” Locke said.

In the fifth inning, Greely threatened again. With two on and nobody out, Jonah Normadeau hit a sharp ground ball to Waterville second baseman Cam Sawyer, one of the Panthers’ three four-year starters along with Locke and Bishop. Sawyer flipped the ball to Beckim covering second base, who made the relay throw to JT Whitten at first to complete the double play. With the tying run at third, Locke struck out Brad McKenney looking to end the inning.

“The whole game, Tim was keeping them off stride,” Sawyer said. “Some of the stuff, he could keep throwing even when he was behind in the count.”

Greely’s final threat came in the bottom of the sixth inning. With runners on the corners with one out, Locke struck out Matt Labbe, then got a groundout from Leeman.

“You’ve got the momentum. The seventh inning was easy,” Locke said.

One of the games Waterville won to get back to the state game helped prepare them for a close game. The Panthers took a 3-2 win over Mt. Desert Island in the regional semifinals, catching a break when an MDI player missed touching home plate on what would have given the Trojans the lead late in the game. Playing first base after pitching earlier in the game, Locke saw the runner miss the plate and quickly shouted to FitzGerald to make the tag. Home plate umpire Bill Brooks stood silently, making neither a safe or an out call.

“I watched the kid run down the third base line, celebrating. I knew right there he didn’t touch the plate,” Locke said.

Kyle Bishop played a big role in helping the Waterville baseball team win the 2011 Class B state title in his senior season. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

FitzGerald ran to the MDI dugout, where the offending player tried to no avail to come out, sneak by and get to home plate. FitzGerald made the tag, and the Panthers prevailed. They went on to defeat Bucksport 10-0 in the regional final a few days later at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.

The Panthers were talented, of course, winning back-to-back state titles. What set them apart was chemistry, said Beckim, who works at Elanco, an animal health store in Winslow.

“In high school, when you’ve got upperclassmen and lowerclass players, chemistry can clash, but that wasn’t the case,” he said.

Beckim and Locke each said they have a DVD copy of the broadcast of the Greely game. Beckim came across his while packing for a move a few years ago and watched it. Locke said he last watched it around a year and a half ago.

“You always like to get more (runs), but we had a solid defense. With one run, I thought we could hold Greely off,” Locke said.

 

 

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