BAR HARBOR — In its final showing of the season, Mount Desert Island’s top youth baseball team delivered a resilient performance.
For nearly two full days, the Acadian Little League 11-12 All Stars played with their backs against the wall. Yet a busy schedule and a scorcher of a weekend that saw temperatures reach the mid-80s in Bar Harbor didn’t stop the Acadian Major Leaguers from ending the 2018 season on a high note.
Acadian capped off a solid year over the weekend with a 6-2 record and second-place finish in the Marty Lyons Classic. The team played eight games in three days and fought its way back from the loser’s bracket to make the championship game before falling to Old Town.
Fifteen teams made the trip to MDI for the tournament.
“I don’t think you can ask for a much better way to end the season,” Acadian head coach Matt Haney said. “These kids just love the game, and they showed it all the way. No matter how tired they were or how hot it was.”
After recording a victory in the opener Friday evening, Acadian was sent to loser’s bracket following a loss to Caribou the following morning. From there, the team had to win its next four games just to reach the penultimate showdown of the double-elimination tournament.
Acadian did exactly that. The team topped Coastal Little League of Blue Hill in its third game of the weekend and followed it up with wins over the MDI Falcons, Presque Isle and Messalonskee to force a second showdown with Caribou.
“They just kept playing and kept winning,” Haney said. “They faced some good pitchers and some good hitters, but it didn’t seem to faze these boys at all. They just went out there and kept going, and then they suddenly had won four or five games in a row.”
In Sunday’s rematch with Caribou, Acadian was three outs from elimination when it trailed 6-4 entering the sixth and final inning of play. That changed when Evan Ankrom blasted a two-run home run over the left-field fence to tie the score.
Three batters later, Noah Keeley hit a single down the left-field line to score Spencer Laurendeau and give Acadian a 7-6 lead. Acadian protected that lead in the bottom half of the inning to advance to the championship game.
“We were up against one of the best pitchers in the whole tournament, but we were able to do it because the kids just believed,” Haney said. “Evan hit that home run after we got the first runner on, and then we scored another and were able to shut them down in the bottom of the inning, which was no small feat.”
An Old Town team that was rarely challenged the entire tournament got the best of Acadian in the championship game, but that couldn’t devalue what was an excellent tournament for the host team.
The win over Caribou, Acadian Youth Sports President Tony McKim said, marked just the second time Acadian had made it all the way to the championship game after being sent to the loser’s bracket.
“You never want to lose, obviously, but it’s fun to go through a loser’s bracket like we did because you get to see what you’re made of and see what everyone can do,” Haney said. “We had literally every single one of the kids on this team step up this week, and that got us all the way to the championship.”
The second-place finish earned Acadian a big trophy, but that wasn’t the only hardware it would take home; the team also received a plaque as winner of the tournament’s sportsmanship award.
This year marked the 20th season of the Marty Lyons Classic, a 30-game tournament that marks the end of the local little Little League International season every year. The tournament also featured an age 9-10 tournament, in which Hermon defeated Caribou 10-5 to claim the title.
“We can only do this because of the amazing volunteers we have and what they’re willing to do for teams from the whole state who come to play,” AYS Executive Director Kyle McKim said. “Everyone would love to spend an August weekend in Bar Harbor, and it’s the people who come out here to put a smile on the players’ and parents’ faces who make it all happen.”