BANGOR, Maine — The Niles-Centerville Senior League all-stars had never qualified for regional play before, let alone for the chance to win a world championship.
But after capping off an undefeated run through pool play with a 7-6, eight-inning survival of stubborn Bangor at Mansfield Stadium on Thursday, the Fremont, Calif., club is just two wins away from winning it all.
“We’d never made it to the Western regionals, so to make it to the regionals was a dream,” said manager Perry Romero, whose team is now 25-2 in postseason play. “To win that and be here is a dream for us. We’re living our dream.”
Bangor nearly realized its own goal of being the first host entry to win two games in a SLWS since the event was moved to Bangor in 2002 after taking a 6-5 lead in the top of the eighth when Jacques Larochelle singled and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Cody Savage.
But Jack Veronin walked to open the bottom of the inning, and Jesse Nohr doubled to prompt Bangor to walk the bases loaded to create a force situation at every base.
Mark Wik singled to right to tie the game at 6-6, and Savage then retired the next two batters on popups before cleanup batter Billy Nevin walked to force home the winning run.
“Our goal today was to play hard and try to get a win out here, but at the same time we wanted to save our top five pitchers for the rest of the tournament, and we were able to do that,” said Romero. “We tip our cap to Maine, they weren’t giving up. They fought all the way through this.”
Fremont, at 4-0 the Pool A champion, advances to an 11:30 a.m. semifinal Friday.
“We’re one of the top four in the world now, so we’re going to come out fighting,” said Wik.
Wik singled twice and drove home three runs to highlight Fremont’s 10-hit attack, while Casey Jennings doubled and singled and Nohr scored three runs.
Nic Cota paced Bangor with a triple, double, single and two RBIs, while Curtis Worcester tripled and singled.
Worcester also pitched 6ª innings, yielding just two earned runs on eight hits.
The U.S. West champs scored three runs in the second inning and two more in the fourth to take a seemingly comfortable 5-0 lead.
Wik had an RBI single and Jordan Fereira a run-producing fielder’s choice in the second, while Jennings had an RBI double high off the left-field fence to highlight the third-inning rally.
But a Bangor team that scored just six runs in its first 29¤ innings of SLWS play erupted for five runs on five hits in the sixth and seventh innings.
Cota, doubled home Luke Hetterman in the sixth and scored on an infield hit by Jesse Wood to close the gap to 5-2.
Manager Ron St. Pierre’s club tied the game an inning later on an RBI triple by Worcester and RBI singles by Hetterman and Cota.
“When we were down 5-0 I wasn’t very hyped up, I was pretty upset in the dugout,” said Cota. “I kind of got a little mad at everyone, but then when our team started hitting the ball, everyone just got pumped up.”
Bangor finished with a 1-3 record, an effort that included a 1-0 win over Canada and back-to-back extra-inning losses to Greenville, S.C. and the Northern California champs.
“Two games in a row going extra innings is a good effort, we represented the city very well,” said Cota. “It’s tough, but we’ve got to take our licks and come back next year. We have nine returning players, so we’ll do well.”