Sophomore Gabe Gifford’s three-run triple in the second inning and senior Matt Seymour’s two-run double in the fourth were the key blows on Saturday as Old Town beat Freeport 7-3 for the Class B baseball state title at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
Tanner Evans’ nine-hit complete game helped the Coyotes win the program’s first state baseball title since 2016.
Old Town (16-4) built a 7-0 lead and withstood a three-run sixth inning by the Falcons, who wound up 147.
The Coyotes’ four-run, second-inning rally began when Connor McCannell was hit by an Anthony Panciocco pitch. Seth Haverlock beat out a well-placed bunt down the first-base line.
Isaac Hayes then bunted toward the mound and Panciocco threw late to third trying to get the forceout, loading the bases. Gifford, a left-handed hitter, ripped the next pitch on a line to left field and left fielder Caden Benedict slipped and fell on the wet grass as the ball sailed over his head.
“I felt like I could have caught it,” said an emotional Benedict. “It was really hard ground and I wasn’t used to it. And it rained this morning so it got more slippery.”
Gifford had drilled a first-pitch single to left in the first inning.
“Both first pitches were outside and I took them the other way,” Gifford said. “When I made contact, I knew it was going pretty far. Then [Benedict] started running in so I thought it might go over his head.”
Freeport coach Steve Shukie thought the ball would have been a hit even if Benedict hadn’t slipped.
“That ball was absolutely smoked,” Shukie said, pointing out that Benedict is an excellent outfielder who made some great catches during their playoff run.
Seymour followed with a sacrifice fly on which center fielder Blaine Cockburn made a great running catch to rob Seymour of an extra-base hit.
Senior Evans worked out of a second-and-third, one-out jam in the top of the fourth and Old Town tacked on three more in the bottom of the fourth.
Haverlock was credited with a double when his fly ball evaded Benedict, who again fell on the wet grass. Hayes punched a single to right and, one out later, Seymour launched his two-run double into right-center field.
“I saw a first-pitch fastball. I thought I hit it pretty well,” Seymour said. “After the first couple of innings, we noticed he threw a lot of first-pitch fastballs and they were mostly strikes. So we were ready for it.”
He eventually scored on a throwing error by the catcher on his steal of third.
The Falcons made things interesting in the sixth on infield singles by Panoccio and Nathan Abbott, Elias Thomas’ ground-ball single to right, a throwing error by the shortstop that allowed two runs to score and Keigan Shea’s sharp RBI single to left.
But Evans induced an inning-ending grounder to second and pitched a scoreless seventh to secure the win.
Evans, the Coyotes’ starting shortstop, pitched only 18 1/3 innings during the regular season.
“He is a great athlete at shortstop. I didn’t want to use him too much [pitching] in the playoffs because I didn’t want to wear him down. But he is a four-year starter and deserved to start this game,” first-year Old Town coach Justin Crisafulli said.
Evans struck out nine and didn’t walk anyone while throwing 118 pitches, 85 for strikes.
“They weren’t hitting my fastball well all day long. And I tried to keep them off balance with my curveball and slider,” Evans said. “It worked out.
“In a couple of innings, I hung some curveballs and they got some hits but, overall, it was pretty decent,” he said.
Gifford had two singles to go with his triple, Haverlock doubled and singled and Hayes singled twice for Old Town.
Panciocco stroked three singles for the Falcons and Shea had two. All nine hits were singles, some of the infield variety.