It was at the spring sports banquet last year that St. Dom’s coach Bob Blackman made two promises to his team.

“The two promises were: That we wouldn’t lose to Willie Brown next year, and I said ‘If you guys keep your heads on, we’ll go 20-0,'” Blackman said.

“I fell one short,” he added.

The Saints were one game shy of achieving perfection this year, but they earned redemption, which is what they had promised themselves.

On Saturday, St. Dom’s celebrated its third state championship in five years on the rich Mansfield Stadium sod with an 11-0 drubbing Saturday of George Stevens Academy, the same school against which the Saints celebrated their first in 2005.

The seeds for this title were planted a few days before last year’s banquet, when the Saints suffered a heart-breaking defeat at the hands of Brown, the Livermore Falls pitcher who mastered them from the mound in the Western C championship game.

Although they lost six seniors to graduation, just four were regulars. The Saints knew they still had a championship nucleus because several contributors to their 2007 title team would be back for their senior seasons.

“They bought into what I said at the end of last year,” Blackman said. “They were a great bunch of seniors. You had five regulars that mostly had played since they were freshmen. It’s going to be tough not seeing those five guys around.”

The five senior regulars – Aaron Allen, Greg LaBonte, Richard Paradis, Casey Parker and Ben Randall, finished their career at St. Dom’s with three Western Maine championships, two state titles and an impressive 71-8 record.

“Four years of being near the top feels pretty good,” Paradis said. “Last year we were down and we lost the state championship once (as freshmen), but it feels good going out on your senior year with a win.”

Parker, the Western Maine Conference Player of the Year, powered the Saints’ offense, along with Paradis, LaBonte and junior third baseman Shayne Curtis.

Another senior, C.J. Bergeron, solidified the catching spot in his first year on the varsity roster. Sophomore Alex Parker helped an already solid infield reach spectacular heights at shortstop. Sophomore DH Curt Johnson started the season hot, cooled off, then regained his blistering bat, going 7-for-7 in the regional and state championships.

“To have a guy in that part of the order (seventh) hitting as well as he hit, that’s amazing,” Allen said. “You know you’re going to succeed when you have people in that part of the order hitting well.”

Blackman liked the team’s pitching depth heading into the season. Allen, LaBonte, and junior lefty Chris Bryant gave him a viable top three for the rotation, and they led a staff that tossed nine shutouts during the season.

But if there was a question mark heading into the season, it was whether anyone could be the work horse when the games got tougher. The Saints typically didn’t ask their starters to go very deep in games.

Bryant (8-1) seized the ace role late in the season, not only as a starter but in relief. He dominated in his last six appearances, in part because he was able (and frequently brought into games) to neutralize the opposition’s running game with his pickoff move.

“Chris did not give up a run since the Greely game (on May 25). Forget an earned run – a run,” Blackman said.

The Saints won their first 10 games before suffering their only loss of the season to Cape Elizabeth, which went on to be the top seed in the Western B tournament. They then beat eventual Western B champion Greely to start a nine-game winning streak that would carry them through the state championship.

The loss to Cape broke one of Blackman’s promises, but the second could still be fulfilled.

After easily disposing of Traip Academy in the Western C quarterfinals, the top-seeded Saints got the rematch they’d been hoping for with Willie Brown and Livermore Falls. Brown again mystified them for the better part of the first five innings, then the Saints scored one in the sixth and two in the ninth on Casey Parker’s game-winning single to come from behind for a 3-2 win.

The regional final against Hall-Dale was just as tight. Again it took some late-inning heroics, this time Johnson’s tie-breaking single in the sixth, to get the Saints over the hump in a 5-4 win.

The 11-0 state championship triumph over George Stevens Academy was a yawner by comparison, but only because the Saints made it look so easy. They played nearly a flawless game. Bryant’s mastery on the mound, steady defense and a relentless offense combined for what Blackman called his team’s best game of the season.

The best promise anyone kept at St. Dom’s is the one they made to themselves – that they would fulfill the promise of the 2009 baseball season.

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