BANGOR — One of the signs of a good hitting team is its ability to produce with two strikes.
The top-seeded Bangor High School Rams erupted for seven runs in the third inning, with five of their six hits coming with two strikes, en route to an 8-1 victory over eighth-seeded Messalonskee of Oakland in an Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinal at Mansfield Stadium Wednesday.
The 17-0 Rams will now host the winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal between No. 5 Lewiston (10-6) and No. 4 Brewer (12-4) in a Saturday semifinal.
Messalonskee wound up 8-9.
“They’ve always been a good [hitting] team with two strikes,” said Messalonskee coach Ray Bernier. “They will still put the ball in play or get hits. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They’re a great team.”
“We’ve actually done a lot of two-strike hitting lately. All of us are pretty much two-strike hitters because [having two strikes] makes us wait back on the ball a lot more,” said Bangor senior designated hitter Devin Lyshon, who had a pair of run-scoring singles, including one in the third.
With Bangor trailing 1-0, Dylan Morris started the decisive rally by hooking a sinking line- drive single into left on a 2-2 pitch from Messalonskee senior righthander Nate Veilleux.
“He threw me a curve inside. It was a pitcher’s pitch and I was trying to spoil it. I slapped it into left field,” said Morris.
Jack Stacey sacrificed him to second and Lonnie Hackett flaired a soft single into right off another 2-2 pitch.
Hackett stole second, Cody McInnis walked to load the bases and Joe Stanevicz ripped a 1-2 pitch past Veilleux’s glove into center field for a two-run single.
“I was looking for something in my wheelhouse and he threw me a fastball. I hit it right up the middle,” said Stanevicz.
Lyshon lined an outside fastball into right for an RBI single on a 3-2 pitch.
Nate Lewis walked and Kyle Savage turned on a fastball and drilled it down the left-field line for a two-run double.
Adam King capped the rally by driving a 2-2 fastball into left center for a two-run, opposite-field single.
“[Assistant coach Dave Morris] has been working with me on letting the ball come in deep because I had been pulling my shoulder,” explained King. “I let that [fastball] come in deep and I put it into the left-field gap.”
King’s hit avenged a tough defensive start for him as the third baseman committed three errors in the first two innings.
“I had to keep my head up. I didn’t want to bring the team down,” said King. “I saw the guys on second and third and knew I had to get a big base hit to keep the inning rolling.”
Veilleux, who struck out four through the first two innings, said, “I lost my curve ball for three or four guys [in the third]. I couldn’t throw one for a strike and they capitalized.
“They were sitting on my fastball,” added Veilleux. “They don’t mess around. They’re going to be tough to beat. You have to come with good off-speed stuff to beat those guys.”
Bangor made it 8-1 in the fourth as Stacey singled and eventually scored on a Lyshon single.
Junior lefty Stanevicz pitched six innings of six-hit one-run ball for the win as he improved to 8-0. The run off him was unearned.
He struck out six and walked two while throwing 90 pitches, 62 for strikes.
“My fastball was really working. My curve was a little shaky but when I got on top of it, it worked,” said Stanevicz. “And after the first inning, our defense was awesome.”
“He’s a great pitcher. He’s beaten us three times,” said Veilleux. “He’s not overpowering but he throws hard enough and he locates the ball well.”
Sam Dexter’s sacrifice fly staked Messalonskee to a 1-0 lead in the first but Stanevicz pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam with a pair of strikeouts later in the inning.