There was a time it didn’t appear that the Hampden Quirk Motor City Junior American Legion baseball team would even exist this season.
Now the team for players ages 13-17 from Greater Bangor is representing Maine at the Northeast Regional in Concord, New Hampshire, after winning the Junior Legion state tournament.
Motor City, which lost the first game of the double-elimination tourney, beat Fairfield PAL 9-4 Tuesday at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor to secure the title.
Motor City plays Massachusetts champion Lynn at 10 a.m. Friday in the eight-team, single-elimination tournament. All teams are guaranteed two games.
Prior to the season, only three players showed up for tryouts to join three players who were included on dual rosters, meaning they could play for both the Motor City Senior Legion team and the Junior squad.
Through phone calls and text messages, Junior Legion head coach Ryan Lincoln, Motor City Senior Legion head coach Cam Archer, also an assistant for the Junior squad, and team manager Tim Archambault were able to recruit six more players to form a 12-player roster.
The team started the season 1-6 but won seven of its past 11 games to finish fifth in Zone 1. It was the zone tournament runner-up and earned one of four berths from the zone in the state tourney.
Motor City blew a 4-0 lead in its state tourney opener, losing to Fairfield PAL 8-4, but bounced back to win its next five games, scoring 52 runs in the process.
“We didn’t make it too easy on ourselves in the state tournament, especially having to keep the pitching going,” said the 25-year-old Lincoln, who also is the head baseball coach at Penobscot Valley High School in Howland.
“We had a long talk after the [tourney] opener. We let that one slip away. But we knew we were just as good as anybody in the tournament as long as we hit the ball.”
And hit the ball they did.
Motor City posted 56 runs and 63 hits in the tournament and only committed six errors after being error-prone early in the season.
“This team has battled all year long,” Lincoln said. “It has been a team that can manufacture runs when it needs to.”
Motor City takes a team batting average of .333 to the regional behind Old Town’s Joseph D’Angelo, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after going 11-for-22 with seven runs batted in.
“When we started out, we didn’t even know if we were going to have a team. Once we got a good group of guys together, we knew what we could do if we worked together,” said D’Angelo, one of the three dual-roster players.
D’Angelo, who also was the starting center fielder for the Senior Legion team, hit .517 with 22 RBI as the leadoff hitter for the Junior squad. He was joined on the all-tourney team by right fielder Nolan Hodgkins, who commutes from Houlton and has not missed a game; shortstop Thomas Knott of Hampden; and pitcher-middle infielder Michael Brown of Old Town, another dual-roster player.
Hodgkins (.470, 22 RBI), who belted a team-leading five home runs, had six RBI in the state tournament.
The other offensive catalysts have been center fielder Alex Tash of Penobscot Valley (.371, 18 stolen bases), Knott (.366, 21 RBIs), John Bapst third baseman Sam Harman (.351), the other dual-roster player, and Brown (.338, 13 SB).
Other mainstays are first baseman Casey Downs of Old Town, second baseman Alan Wheaton of John Bapst and left fielder Zach Doore of PVHS.
Among the pitchers, Knott is 1-3 with a 2.08 earned run average and Brown (4-0, 3.83) have been the top starters. Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln’s Cody Hanscom won the championship game with a quality outing.
Isaac Doore, Zach’s younger brother, is a utility player, and Hampden’s Aaron Donovan, an outfielder-second baseman, also saw some playing time.
D’Angelo said the team is tight-knit.
“At first, it was quiet in the dugout because we didn’t know each other, but now we’re like a family,” D’Angelo said.
In addition to Archer, the assistant coaches are John Frye, Jaedan Folster and Amy Knott.