The Machias Memorial High School baseball team broke through to capture its first regional championship last spring.
With a veteran cast coming off a dominant run to its second straight Class D North crown this spring, coach Sam Whitney’s Bulldogs are one victory away from taking that final step of achieving statewide supremacy in the small-school ranks.
Machias, whose 16-2 record this year represents the most victories for the program in a season since the 1960s, will face South champion St. Dominic Academy of Auburn for the state crown at 1 pm Saturday at Flaherty Field on the campus of the University of Southern Maine in Gorham.
The Bulldogs will enter that game riding a 12-game winning streak, including an 11-0 victory over No. 2 Stearns of Millinocket in Tuesday’s North championship game after a 9-5 win at No. 1 Wisdom of Saint Agatha in the semifinals.
“We talked about this in the very first practice of the season,” Machias coach Sam Whitney said. “We got the boys together again and said we have the very same team coming back, we’re going to be facing the same tough competition, but with last year’s experience under our belts we were confident that we were going to be one of the top teams. We just had to show up every day and perform.”
The Bulldogs, the No. 4 seed in Class D North, have combined stifling pitching — including 10 shutouts among its 16 victories — with deep, potent offense — five starters have batting averages above .500 and two others top .400 — to earn its way back to the state final .
The pitching staff is anchored by senior Kashman Feeney, who has struck out 82 batters in 42 innings and has a 1.00 earned run average. Classmate Kyle Anderson (2.72 ERA) has been the No. 2 starter, and along with senior Jayden Rhodes and juniors Kason Ferguson and Ethan Foss, each has pitched between 14 and 18 in this spring.
“We had the same pitchers back this year, and with Kashman and Kyle our aces like it was last year,” Whitney said. “When they’re on there’s very few teams that will hit the ball consistently against them. Both of them have pitched tremendously this year.”
Anderson, the starting first baseman, boasts a team-leading .593 batting average with 32 hits in 54 at-bats, four home runs and 28 RBIs, but his robust numbers are not an anomaly on a team with a .467 team batting average .
Other offensive leaders include Ferguson (.578), Rhodes (.569), junior second baseman Ethan Libby (.531), Foss (.517) and Feeney (.453, team-leading 30 RBI).
Feeney, Rhodes and Anderson all were named to the All-Penobscot Valley Conference Class D first team, while Ferguson earned second-team honors.
“It’s been phenomenal what we’ve been able to do with the bats,” Whitney said.
Machias’ defense has been boosted this spring with the addition of Ferguson and Libby, two transfers who have stepped in at shortstop and second base and helped the pitching staff limit opponents to 13 runs during the team’s 14-game regular season.
“I think this is the most solid fielding-wise that Machias has ever been,” Whitney said. “Our three outfielders are fast and have a good read on the ball, and all around with Jayden behind the plate as the centerpiece and with the additions we’ve had, we’ve got a complete fielding team that has made very few errors. “
The Bulldogs’ depth has also been aided by an influx of six freshmen to support the five seniors, five juniors and one sophomore on the roster.
That first-year contingent has been led by Lucas Robicheau (.447, 19 RBI) and Brayden Barker (.317), who teams with junior Shane Feeney (.320) in the outfield.
Third-ranked St. Dominic (9-8) is heading back to a state championship game in baseball for the first time since winning the Class C crown in 2015.
St. Dominic is even younger than Machias, with no seniors and just one junior on its 17-player roster.
Coach Bob Blackman’s Saints were hardened for postseason competition by playing just one game against a Class D opponent (Richmond) before the playoffs.
This will mark the Saints’ ninth title-game appearance in the last 25 years, with additional Class C championships in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011.
St. Dom’s earned this trip to states by scoring a run in the top of the seventh inning to upend defending state champion and top-ranked Searsport 1-0 in Tuesday’s South final at USM.
Sophomore Ashton Hammond earned the pitching win against Searsport, tossing a complete-game five-hitter with eight strikeouts. He is expected to get the pitching start against Machias in the state final.