High school baseball

Dynasty driven: Back-to-back-to-back regional crowns for Searsport

No. 1 Vikings secure third straight state finals berth with 6-2 Class D South win over Richmond.
By Mark Haskell | Jun 13, 2017
Photo by: Mark Haskell Searsport team members celebrate following a 6-2 win over Richmond on June 13 in a high school baseball game at St. Joseph's College in Standish. The No. 1 Vikings and No. 2 Bobcats battled in a Class D championship game.

Standish — Hustle is perhaps the most important trait of an aspiring student-athlete.

Whether the competitor is a star, role player or reserve, when their number is called, hustle typically is the defining characteristic that determines that person's future success — and ultimately, that of the team.

Searsport’s Isaiah Runci got his hustle on batting out of the No. 9 spot during the team’s Class D South championship high school baseball game against No. 2 Richmond on Tuesday, June 13.

Runci’s unlikely two-run single in the bottom of the fourth inning helped key a three-run frame for the No. 1 Vikings, who got contributions from a handful of players at the plate, in the field and on the bases as Searsport swung to a 6-2 win over Richmond to clinch the regional crown.

Click for photos from this game.

Watch video below.

It was the third straight regional championship for the Vikings (16-3), who advance to the state Class D title game on Saturday, June 17, back at St. Joseph’s College.

The Vikings will face Bangor Christian (14-5) in the state game, scheduled for 1 p.m.

Searsport coach John Frye said of the feeling — winning a third straight regional crown — “It never gets old.”

“We just have a great group of kids all-around,” he said. “We’re young this year with two starting freshmen and a sophomore pitcher that hadn’t pitched at all as a freshman [in] Charlie [Spiegel]. We just came out and played today. Actually, the tougher the competition it seems the better we play.”

Oddly, it is the third straight season for Searsport — the two-time defending state Class D champions — where it will face a team it faced during the regular season for the state title.

Searsport defeated Bangor Christian twice in a May 8 doubleheader at Searsport — 2-0 in game one and 7-4 in game two.

Searsport defeated Penobscot Valley of Howland for the state title in 2016 and split with the Howlers on the regular season and beat Stearns of Millinocket in 2015 and also split with the Minutemen during the regular season.

Searsport, the top seed in Class D South, bested No. 8 Valley of Bingham 9-2 in the quarterfinals and No. 5 Buckfield 13-1 in five innings in the semifinals to advance to Tuesday’s regional title game.

No. 2 Richmond beat No. 7 Forest Hills of Jackman 26-4 in the quarterfinals and No. 6 Greenville 11-1 in the semifinals.

Searsport and Richmond did not face off during the regular season.

Runci’s two-run single helped pace the Vikings at the plate as did contributions from Barrett Grant (2 runs, stolen base), Colby Snow (single), Spiegel (stolen base), Mitchell Philbrook (double, 2 runs), Liam MacMillan (2 singles, run, RBI, stolen base), George Dakin (single) and Cameron Watt (run).

For the Bobcats, who saw their season wrap at 16-3, Matt Rines (RBI), Zach Small (triple, run), Nate Kendrick (single, RBI, stolen base) and Brady Johnson (single) paced the offense.

Spiegel had trouble on the hill in the first inning for the Vikings, but settled down and turned in a 4-hit, 3-walk, 4-strikeout performance for the defending champs.

“It’s pretty surreal that we can consistently get back here and consistently prove that we’re able to come back after losing seniors [every year],” said Spiegel. “The team chemistry is what keeps us going.”

Zach Small, Brendan Emmons and Rines toed the rubber for the Bobcats as the trio combined to allow six hits and six walks, with 10 strikeouts.

Both teams went in order in the first inning, and Spiegel danced out of trouble in the second as he hit two batters with pitches and walked another to load the bases, but came out unscathed.

Speigel admitted he has struggled with early-game jitters throughout the season.

“As a sophomore I have a lot of weight on my shoulders to try to carry this team throughout this big game and pitch us through,” he said. “But once I got a little bit of wiggle room, I was able to settle in pretty easily.”

He got that wiggle room as Searsport got on the board in the second when Philbrook ripped a double to deep center field, was bunted to third base by Ben Powell and singled home by MacMillan to put the Vikings up 1-0.

It was not the first time MacMillan had singled home Philbrook as the duo collaborated on an run-producing single to give Searsport a 4-3 win in extra innings over Stearns in the state Class D title game in 2015.

On Tuesday, Richmond battled to tie the score in the top of the third when Small tripled and was promptly singled in by Kendrick, but Searsport jumped back ahead in the bottom of the frame on a head's-up play on the bases by Grant.

Grant reached on an error, stole second and moved to third after Snow reached on an error.

Then, with Spiegel at the dish, the Bobcat catcher fired to third base in an attempt to pick off Grant, who, in turn, bolted to the plate and just beat the return throw to put the Vikings up 2-1.

Searsport then pulled away in the fourth when Philbrook reached on a walk and MacMillan and Dakin singled to load the bases.

That set the table for Runci, who, with two outs, hit a high chopper toward first base.

“I assumed that I was out as soon as I hit it,” he said. “I realized that. But I noticed that [the first baseman] wasn’t hustling to the bag and I thought he was going to try to tag me at first, but he didn’t. And I just dove.”

Runci’s head-first slide just beat the Bobcat first baseman as two runs crossed the plate to give the Vikings a 4-1 edge.

“That was the game-changer,” said Frye. “If he doesn’t make that head-first slide, it’s a whole different ballgame [because] we’re only up 2-1 at that time. That’s a huge play. He deserves a big part of the credit.”

Moments later, Small was called for a balk on the hill, which plated Watt — who pinch-ran for Dakin — and put Searsport ahead 5-1.

Both teams also pushed across a run in the seventh inning as Grant scored on an error for Searsport and Vachon scored on a sacrifice fly by Rines.

Frye said typically if the Vikings can get Spiegel through the first few innings on the mound, “he settles in and by the end he’s overpowering.”

“I thought about taking him out in the seventh, but he wanted the ball and didn’t want to come out,” said Frye. “He’s a bulldog.”

Now the Vikings have time to prepare for the Patriots, with the hope being they will hoist the state crown for the third straight season by that day’s end.

“Coach [Tim] Collins of B.C. has an incredible team there, so they’ll be two great teams that know each other very well,” said Frye. “The team that makes less mistakes I think you’re going to see be state champs on Saturday.”

Searsport versus Richmond baseball
Searsport and Richmond play on June 13 in high school baseball regional championship game at St. Joseph's College in Standish. (Video by: Zack Millerof VStv)
Searsport District High School baseball team members think it is thrice as nice to win a third straight regional title. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
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Mark Haskell
Associate Sports Director
594-4401, ext. 116
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Mark has been covering local sports throughout Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln county since 2007. Haskell has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from the University of Maine and is also a 2000 graduate of Rockland District High School. He has won multiple Maine Press Association awards for writing and photography.

Mark loves iced coffee, cargo shorts, spending time with friends and family and suffers no longer after his beloved Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

He resides in Thomaston with his wife Jenn, his sons Beckett and Austin and daughter Lila.

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