BOSTON -- They're back.
Not that the Bayhawks were absent from Major League Lacrosse's championship game for very long. They missed it for the first time in the league's five-year history last year.
But, having dispatched the Rochester Rattlers, 20-13, in a semifinal at Nickerson Field last night, the Bayhawks were happy to have made it to their fourth title game -- a showdown tomorrow at 1:05 p.m. with the Long Island Lizards, who defeated the Boston Cannons, 19-14, in the other semifinal.
"We weren't there last year, for the first year," said midfielder Paul Cantabene, "so it's pretty satisfying. You learn when you're not there, how special it is to get there."
The notion was seconded by player/coach Gary Gait, who led the Bayhawks to their only MLL title back in 2002.
"Last year was disappointing," said Gait, who scored five goals against the Rattlers last night. "We set a goal to get to the championship, so we're there."
Not that they had a free pass against Rochester, which beat them in last week's regular-season finale.
Trailing the Rattlers 9-7 at one point late in the second quarter last night, the Bayhawks got into high gear and outscored their opponents 13-4 the rest of the way.
"I think we controlled the ball more," said midfielder Josh Sims. "This game is a lot about possession, and I think we had more opportunities."
Baltimore led 3-0 after the opening 2:58, then went flat, costing itself the lead.
The Rattlers fashioned a 9-4 run, fueled in large part by three goals from former Bayhawk Andrew "Buggs" Combs.
But with 5:08 left in the half, Gait got the Bayhawks going with a one-handed sweep shot that put his team within 9-8.
Then, after Mikey Powell tied the score, Sims made a strong stop at midfield, bolted to the net and whipped the ball past Rochester goalie Tillman Johnson (21 saves) to put the Bayhawks ahead for good at 10-9.
"You always want to go hard [to the goal]," Sims said, "and try to create something. Then if it's not there, it's not there. I think on that occasion, we definitely had a bit of a break."
The Bayhawks poured it on in the second half, outscoring the Rattlers 8-4.
Tom Marechek (five goals, two assists) put on a show midway through the third period when he took a pass from Powell and, with his back to the net, bounced the ball between his legs and past Johnson to make it 14-11.
"It just happened," Marechek said. "It was just one of those instant things."
Goalie Trevor Tierney went the distance in the Bayhawks' net, making 13 saves.
Rochester 5 4 3 1 -- 13
Bayhawks 5 7 4 4 -- 20
Goals: R--Combs 5, Shannon 3, C. Powell 2, R. Powell 2, Cassese; B--Gait 5, Marechek 5, M. Powell 3, Sims 3, Cantabene, Merrill, Prout, Sonke. Assists: R--R. Powell 4, Grant 3, Cassese, Juleff, Lindsay, C. Powell, Schiller; B--Frye 2, Marechek 2, M. Powell 2, Curry, Pfarr, Prout, Sonke. Saves: R--Tillman Johnson 21; B--Tierney 13.