Oxford Hills’ Wyatt Williamson tries to catch a foul ball during the 2019 Class A North final in Augusta. Brewster Burns photo

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of stories about the effects of the cancellation of the spring sports season.

Wyatt Williamson packed a lot of great moments and performances into three baseball seasons at Oxford Hills. That doesn’t make losing what would have been his fourth season to the coronavirus pandemic any easier to take.

Williamson, who will follow in his father Gary’s footsteps and play for the University of Southern Maine starting in the fall, had plenty of reasons to look forward to his final months as a Viking. Widely considered one of the top catchers in the state last season, he was poised to emerge as one of the top pitchers, too, after inheriting the ace role from Colton Carson, who is now at the University of Maine.

There weren’t many better No. 2 starters in the state last year than Williamson, who went 6-1 and pitched complete games in the regional semifinals and state championship game for the Vikings.

Last season ended with an unforgettable 10-day run in June. Williamson caught Carson’s no-hitter in the Class A North quarterfinal win over Skowhegan, threw an impressive complete game of his own to beat Lewiston, 3-1, in the semifinals, then went back behind the plate again to guide Carson through a slightly rockier outing in the Vikings’ come-from-behind, 3-1 win over Edward Little in the A North final.

Oxford Hills coach Shane Slicer gave Williamson the ball again on the 10th day, the state championship game against Scarborough. Williamson gave up a run in the first inning but battled to prevent further damage, then held the Red Storm at bay so the Vikings could cobble together a two-run rally in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game, 2-2. Scarborough, though, won 3-2 in eight innings.

“Looking at that game, I’m sure Wyatt put a lot of it on his shoulders. But he was so fantastic in that game. He was fantastic all season,” Slicer said.

The loss haunts Williamson, as it would anyone, but he and Slicer agreed whatever motivation it would have provided for this season was quickly replaced by a desire to disprove the doubters who would have counted out the Vikings this season after graduating seven starters.

“It was a heartbreaker, but we learn from our losses,” Williamson said. “It made us work that much harder during the offseason. We were going to have a young team this year and I think with all of the seniors (eight overall) we graduated, people thought we weren’t going to be that good, so we were all working really hard. We were going to be a really good team, and it hurts that we can’t show it.”

Williamson said he’s particularly disappointed he won’t have another year to work with Andrew Merrill, a sophomore who served as his backup last year and would have been his catcher this year.

“We had a lot of leaders on the team, but I got a good taste of being a leader working with Andrew last year, and I was really excited to work with him this year,” Williamson said.

Slicer said it’s a shame Williamson won’t be able to build on that relationship and others this spring. He sees Williamson as someone to pass on the ethos of the talented and dedicated group that graduated last season to the promising group of underclassmen that would have made up the majority of this year’s roster.

But Slicer added Williamson already made a huge impact as a leader by example during the offseason.

“He’s a throwback,” Slicer said. “He’s more passionate about baseball than any kid I’ve ever seen. He works like crazy. He spent a ton of time in the weight room, working on his legs, and a ton of time in the (batting) cage. Baseball means everything to him. He’s got a perfect approach to the game.”

“I think he saw we had some talent coming back, and saw how they were dedicated and working hard, and he was really looking forward to being that leader,” Slicer said.

As big of a part of the Vikings’ success as he’s been over the past three years, Williamson still deserved a season removed from the shadows of Carson and the rest of last year’s senior class, Slicer said.

“He never got a chance to be the best. He never got a chance to be the guy the other team looked at and said, ‘Oh, boy, we’ve got to face him,'” Slicer said. “I think Wyatt had some things he wanted to prove. He was confident. He really felt like he was going to be one of the better pitchers in the state. He was throwing hard and he had great command.”

“From the day I got him (as a freshman), he gave me everything he had, and that’s special,” Slicer added. “He was never afraid of a challenge, even when he was that little freshman. I’ve never had a more fierce competitor. When he was a freshman starting varsity he had to bust his ass to prove he belonged, and now as a senior he was going to be the best.

“Now he’s going to USM and he’ll have to go back to square one.”

At least that square will be populated with fellow Vikings. Cam Slicer, Ashton Kennison, Janek Lukza and Rodney Bean had their freshman season at USM canceled after one game due to the coronavirus.

“I guess one good thing about (losing this season) is it means my last season playing here, I got to do it with all of my best friends,” Williamson said. “I can’t wait to play with them again.”

To that end, and still holding out hope that there will be an American Legion season this summer, Williamson continues to work out, lift weights and takes occasional batting practice with his father on a ball field in Woodstock.  He has grown a couple of inches and his weight has shot up from 150 to 170 pounds, which he hopes will put him in the best position to contribute to his next team, whether it’s Bessey Motors in Legion or USM in fall ball.

Although he is close with Cam Slicer and plans on spending more time with Shane Slicer before he enrolls in college, Williamson said not having the chance to play one last season as a Viking for Slicer and assistant coach Joe Oufiero may be the toughest pill to swallow.

“I’m really honored to have played for ‘Slice’ and ‘Coach O,'” he said. “Even though I’m best friends with Cam, and he and I and Slice will be doing a lot of smelting and hunting and fishing together in the future, I think I’m definitely missing out.”


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