BREWER, Maine — While the number of days and games are winding down in high school baseball’s regular season, the intensity is picking up among both the teams with high expectations and those merely seeking to secure postseason futures.
That intensity was in evidence Monday night at Heddericg Field, where junior right-hander Greg Duff pitched a six-hitter and Bangor scratched out an unearned run in the top of the eighth inning to edge Brewer 2-1 in an Eastern Maine Class A battle of rivals.
Top-ranked Bangor is now 13-1, while No. 7 Brewer falls to 6-7. Nine teams qualify for the playoffs in the division.
“We’ve been telling the kids for about 10 days that it’s just like the playoffs now,” said Bangor coach Jeff Fahey. “Every game, every play, every at-bat is important.
“I know it feels like it right now. I’m worn out, and I haven’t done anything.”
Senior left fielder Cody Savage grounded a one-out single to left — his second hit of the game — to start Bangor’s game-winning rally in the first extra inning. Savage stole second, then scored from there when Bryan Rouleau’s two-out, high fly ball to fairly deep left field was misplayed.
“I was pretty much just trying to get the bat on the ball again,” said Savage, whose two-run single in the bottom of the sixth had given Bangor a 7-6 win over Oxford Hills of South Paris in the Rams’ previous game last Friday.
“I guess I’m getting used to pressure situations. I just take deep breaths and try not to let the game get to me.”
Duff (6-0) issued his only walk of the contest to Brewer’s Kyle Alexander leading off the bottom of the eighth, then an infield error gave the Witches runners on first and second with no one out.
But Duff induced Jeff Weeks to ground to shortstop Carl Farnham to start a 6-4-3 double play and then stranded the tying run on third base by getting Matt Morrow on a game-ending groundout.
Duff struck out seven hitters while outdueling the Brewer combination of Alexander and Weeks — two junior right-handers who combined to strike out 14 Bangor batters.
“Anytime you have to pitch away from Mansfield [Stadium, Bangor’s home field], you have to get adjusted to the mound,” said Duff, who did not allow a hit after the fourth inning and retired 12 of the 13 batters he faced from the fourth through the seventh innings. “It took a little while, but it got better for me.”
Duff relied more on his off-speed pitches than he did when he worked 5⅓ scoreless innings of Bangor’s 4-0 win over the Witches in their first meeting of the spring.
“Once he settled in and got his curveball working, that’s really his best pitch,” said Fahey. “His fastball when he locates it is good, but his curveball was his best pitch tonight.”
Alexander worked the first six innings for Brewer, striking out nine and walking two while scattering seven hits and allowing one earned run.
Weeks came on in the seventh and struck out five of the eight batters he faced while being charged with one unearned run.
“It was a well-played game, a well-pitched game,” said Fahey. “Duff and Alexander both pitched great, and I wasn’t sure the game was going to end after eight innings, either. It looked like it might go until we both ran out of pitching.”
Brewer took a 1-0 lead in the third inning as Yuhi Sasaki hit a one-out single to left and scored on Morrow’s two-out double to deep left.
That marked just the second earned run allowed by Duff over 38⅔ innings this spring.
Bangor, which stranded six runners over the first five innings, finally reached Alexander for the tying run in the top of the sixth.
Savage hit a leadoff single to left, advanced to third on an opposite-field single to right by Brendan Moore and scored on Rouleau’s double-play grounder.
Savage was one of two repeat hitters for Bangor; Brendan Moore singled twice. While Sasaki singled twice and Morrow and Tony Bissell each doubled for Brewer.
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained an error. Bangor’s Brendan Moore inadvertently was omitted as a repeat hitter. He singled twice.