The St. Dominic baseball team celebrates after winning the Class D state championship at Mansfield Stadium on Tuesday. Credit: Ernie Clark / BDN

Just one player was missing this spring from the 2022 St. Dominic High School baseball team that captured the Class D state championship.

But while the pressure to repeat was somewhat omnipresent this year, it didn’t stop the Auburn-based Saints from realizing that goal, a task they completed Tuesday evening with a 4-1 victory over Bangor Christian in the state final at Mansfield Stadium.

“Once we got to the playoffs, it was like another switch turned on,” said 19th-year St. Dominic head coach Bob Blackman, whose single-senior team this spring finished its regular season with an 11-5 record against a predominantly Class C schedule.

“They drew on their experience from last year. That experience was priceless, and they were  very serious for the last week and a half, which is good. I like to see that.”

The Saints’ championship-game effort was paced by junior righthander Ashton Hammond, who effectively mixed his fastball and slider en route to pitching a complete-game five-hitter to improve his record to 5-1.

“I think the nerves got to me a little in the beginning,” he said. “I was having trouble finding my fastball and finding the zone. But I settled down and I know I have a great team behind me so I knew if I just threw strikes they’d get it done for me.”

Hammond struck out seven batters and walked two in outdueling Bangor Christian ace Jason Libby while facing more than four batters in just one inning of his 107-pitch performance.

Hammond added a double and two runs scored as part of an eight-hit offense that also included a double and single by freshman leftfielder Riley Daigle as well as three squeeze bunt plays — one that produced the Saints’ first run in the top of the second inning.

“With the squeezes we thought one or two runs might be enough,” said Blackman, whose team attempted just one similar squeeze play during the regular season. “But once we started making the contact we made I didn’t worry as much about manufacturing runs.”

St. Dominic concluded its season with a 14-5 record while Bangor Christian — seeking its first state title since winning three in a row in 2012, 2013 and 2014 — finished 16-2.

Libby, a senior righthander and finalist for the state’s Mr. Baseball award, worked the first six innings before reaching the 110-pitch limit, yielding one earned run on eight hits with eight strikeouts, two walks and two wild pitches.

“One thing I wasn’t very happy about was on a lot of two-strike counts I left it just a little over the plate and they took advantage,” said Libby, who plans to continue his baseball career next season at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. “They’re a good team, and that’s what good teams will do.”

Ryan Libby, Jason’s twin brother, had two of the Patriots’ five hits, a double to deep left field in the first inning and a single to center in the third.

Jason Libby struck out the side in the top of the first, but St. Dominic took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second.

Junior catcher Ridge Dionne led off the inning by pulling an 0-2 pitch for a single to right-center. Dionne stole second base, then advanced to third when Libby opted to throw Riley Daigle out at first on a comebacker to the mound.

Dionne scored on a well-executed squeeze bunt to the right of home plate by Ethan Pelletier, with a high throw to first enabling Pelletier to reach first.

Pelletier reached second base on a wild pitch, then advanced to third on an infield hit toward third base by Ryan Bussiere and scored on Libby’s second wild pitch of the inning to make it 2-0.

Hammond drilled a double down the left-field line to open the Saints’ third inning, then stole third base before extending his team’s lead to 3-0 on Tim Ouellette’s sacrifice fly to right field.

Miles Frenette then reached second base on an infield error and stole third before being tagged out at the plate by Bangor Christian catcher Micah Robert on a third-strike squeeze bunt miss by Dionne to end the inning.

Bangor Christian scored its lone run in the bottom of the third, beginning when Jon Benjamin drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second when Jason Libby popped an opposite-field single toward the left-field line.

When Ryan Libby followed with a one-out single to center, the bases were loaded and Blackman visited Hammond at the mound.

“In the middle innings [Hammond] struggled a little with location so we got away from the slider a little bit,” Blackman said. “We were really pushing the slider early in the game and he had good command of it. He kind of lost it in the middle innings so we went back to the fastball and he found [the slider] again and settled back in. It wasn’t his best game, but it was good enough. He battled and kept us in it.”

Cole Payne then flared a pop-up up the middle that was tracked down by St. Dominic’s Curtis Wheeler as he was racing back into the outfield. That allowed Benjamin to tag up and score on the play, with an errant throw enabling the other runners to reach second and third .

Hammond escaped further damage, retiring Colton White on a comebacker to the mound to end the uprising with St. Dominic maintaining a 3-1 lead.

The Saints added an insurance run in the top of the seventh. Hammond reached on a dropped popup, then stole second and advanced to third on a groundout before scoring the game’s final run on a wild pitch.

“Obviously this was the end goal and it stinks coming up one game short,” Jason Libby said. “Since the beginning of the season that’s what we’ve all wanted, and it’s been a great group of guys and a really great season. I couldn’t have asked for much better.”

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...