BANGOR — Jesse Wood pitched six shutout innings and Nic Cota had three hits and two RBIs on Tuesday evening as Bangor clinched the top seed for the upcoming American Legion Zone 1 baseball tournament with a 5-2 victory over Brewer at Mansfield Stadium.
“For us it’s more of a reward in terms of how these kids have approached the Legion season,” said Bangor coach Dave Morris of the Comrades’ regular-season title. “When you have kids come out and make a commitment like these kids make — and the same is true for the team we played tonight — it really reveals their character, and this is a reward for that commitment.”
Bangor (17-3) and Brewer (15-5) will be the top two seeds for the Zone 1 tournament that begins Sunday at Husson University in Bangor after a play-in game Saturday night to determine the fourth and final seed.
Bangor gained an additional dose of momentum heading into postseason play from Wood’s work on the mound, as the righthander scattered five hits while striking out six batters, walking four and stranding nine Brewer baserunners.
“We had runners on base, but Jesse Wood pitched a great game,” said Brewer coach Chris Morris. “He battled, he threw strikes in spots where he needed to throw strikes, and they played great defense and that’s what you have to do at this time of the season.”
Wood threw 113 pitches, but also benefited from retiring the leadoff batter in every inning but the first while establishing himself as a factor in Bangor’s playoff rotation.
“Jesse really has had some tough luck, and before the game we told him we needed to be at his best going into the (zone) tournament for us as well as for him,” said Dave Morris. “Tonight he established his fastball and his curveball was really working, and that kept them off balance.”
Cota paced Bangor’s nine-hit attack with a double and two singles, all during the first four innings when the Comrades built a 5-0 lead.
“It’s good to get out of that slump,” said Cota, Bangor’s shortstop. “I’ve been off and on, but I’m starting to feel better. You get through that middle of the season when it seems like you’re playing eight games a week and you feel better. Twenty-one games in three or four weeks is tough, but it’s been really good.”
Bangor’s first three batters each singled to give the Comrades a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Cody McInnis hit a leadoff single to left and moved to third as Cota singled to right. Dylan Morris followed with a sharp ground single off the glove of Brewer shortstop Cody Farrell to drive home McInnis.
Bangor added two unearned runs in the third. Carl Farnham reached on an error and raced home from first when Cota slammed a one-out double to left center-field. Cota scored one out later when Joe Stanevicz hit an opposite-field single down the left-field line.
Wood, meanwhile, frustrated Brewer early, by stranding seven Falcon runners — three in scoring position — and getting out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the third by tagging Brandon Gendreau at home after catcher Dylan Morris chased down a short wild pitch behind the plate.
“Whenever I have baserunners on it just gives me that extra adrenaline rush,” said Wood. “I know I have to bear down to make sure nobody scores.”
Farnham ignited another two-run Bangor rally in the fourth inning, flaring a two-out single to right. McInnis followed with an RBI triple over the head of Brewer right fielder Pat McEwen, and McInnis scored to make it 5-0 when Cota singled off Farrell’s glove.
Brewer broke up Bangor’s shutout bid with two unearned runs off reliever Bryan Rouleau in the seventh. Tyler French and Gendreau each reached on infield errors, and later came around to score on a two-out single up the middle by pinch-hitter Evan Eldridge.
Eric White added two singles and a walk to Brewer’s offense.