STANDISH — Blaine Cockburn knew the situation. The Freeport High freshman pitcher had been called on to relieve his older brother Heath and protect the Falcons’ 2-1 lead in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s Class B South regional baseball final at Saint Joseph’s College.
Oh, and the tying run was at second and Riley Linn of York – the Class B South Player of the Year – was at the plate.
“I’m always ready. My mindset changes on the mound,” he said. “Right field I can get a little nervous just watching the game. As soon as I’m on the mound, it just clicks.”
Cockburn, a left-hander, struck out Linn, getting him to chase a curveball well off the plate. Then he retired the next six York batters, striking out three to nail down No. 3 Freeport’s 2-1 victory against No. 1 York and secure the Falcons’ second trip to a state championship game in four years.
“Blaine is fearless. Blaine does not pitch like a freshman. His moxie is incredible,” said first-year Freeport Coach Kyle Goodrich.
Freeport (16-3) returns to St. Joe’s on Saturday at 4:30 p.m., to face the winner of Wednesday’s North final between No. 2 Hermon (17-1) and No. 1 Ellsworth (17-1). Freeport’s first trip to the state final, as the South’s No. 7 seed in 2016, was a 12-2, five-inning loss to Old Town.
“No offense to (the 2016 team) but I honestly think we’re more talented,” Heath Cockburn said.
Both Cockburns will be eligible to go back to the mound if needed. Heath threw 73 pitches, Blaine 26, in a combined 11-strikeout, five-hitter.
York (16-3) was averaging 8.8 runs per game and had scored at least six in 16 games, including in an 8-4 win against Freeport.
“We weren’t scared of them at all but we knew they were good bats,” said Heath Cockburn, a junior right-hander. “We saw them earlier in the year and they were crushing everything. Even the outs.”
In Tuesday’s rematch, Heath Cockburn worked at a rapid pace and used a lively fastball up in the zone to set up his curve. He struck out seven.
“They found a way to locate around the plate and use that off-speed pitch to their advantage to keep us off balance in a way I haven’t seen us at any point this season,” said York Coach Nick Hanlon.
York starting pitcher J. Henry Bock also allowed just five hits in a complete-game effort. Neither team drew a walk.
“The Cockburn brothers’ performance sort of (overshadowed) what Bocko did but he had a fantastic game on the mound for us,” Hanlon said.
Freeport scored its first run in the second inning. Eriksen Shea’s drive to right field got past the late diving attempt by Alexander Neilson for a triple and he scored on a groundout. York’s regular right fielder Hayden Henriksen was playing second in place of injured Trevor Lavigne, who broke his clavicle when he collided with Henriksen in Saturday’s regional semifinal.
Freeport made it 2-0 with back-to-back with two outs singles from Heath Cockburn and Toby Holt, the latter coming after Cockburn stole second on an attempted hit-and-run.
“I missed the hit-and-run but luckily he got to second,” Holt said. “I just needed to get a hit to the outfield and hopefully Heath would score. That’s what we’ve been doing all season. We’ve made the most of our base runners.”
York’s run came in the fourth. Shane Pidgeon (2 for 3) led off with a double and scored on a passed ball and a wild pitch