ORONO, Maine — The 21st annual Maine Senior High School Baseball All-Star Game was proceeding at a fairly leisurely pace through seven innings Friday evening.
Then a pitching duel between East and West suddenly evolved into an offensive explosion, with the East countering a five-run West uprising in the top of the eighth with four runs in the bottom of the inning to earn a 9-6 victory at Mahaney Diamond on the campus of the University of Maine.
“It was a great experience,” said East outfielder Christian Corneil of Bangor. “Being able to play with the guys we’ve been playing against all season and all of the best players in the state, I’m just glad to have been selected and have the opportunity to play here.”
The East held a 5-1 lead through seven innings, but three singles loaded the bases with no one out in the West eighth before Jeb Clarke of Gould Academy hit a two-run double down the left-field line and Bryce Snyder of Yarmouth followed with a game-tying two-run triple down the right-field line.
Max Gore of Cape Elizabeth then singled home Snyder to give the West a sudden 6-5 lead.
But the East countered immediately, loading the bases with no one out in the bottom of the eighth before an infield error on a grounder hit by Sam Dexter of Class A state champion Messalonskee of Oakland plated the tying and go-ahead runs.
An errant pickoff throw subsequently allowed two more runs to score — with Dexter coming all the way around from first base — to give the East its 9-6 cushion.
“I got it going a little bit around second and took a peek back just to see where the ball was,” said Dexter, a Mr. Baseball finalist. “[Third base] Coach [Don] Sawyer wasn’t letting up and I wasn’t letting up, and it was awesome.”
The West took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Taylor Reuillard of Biddeford reached East starter Curtis Worcester of Bangor for an RBI single.
But the East took control with single runs in the second, third and fifth innings, all coming after two were out.
Orono’s Tyler Eddy hit a two-out triple to deep left-center and scored on an infield hit by Ryan Pulver of Erskine Academy in South China to tie the game in the second.
Corneil hit a two-out double in the top of the third and scored the go-ahead run when Lewiston’s Corbin Hyde grounded a single up the middle.
Corneil, a center fielder bound for the University of Southern Maine in the fall, then made the defensive game of the play in the top of the fourth, ranging well into right field to make a diving catch that robbed Reuillard of an extra-base hit.
“I didn’t think I was going to get to it,” said Corneil. “I was looking at Corbin Hyde in right, looking at him and then looking at the ball and then looking at him, and I thought he wasn’t going to be able to get to it so I had to get on my horse. At the last second I said ‘me,’ so Corbin backed off and backed me up and I just timed it just right with full extension, got a mouthful of rubber [from the artificial turf] out of it but was able to catch it.
“That’s one of the longer runs I’ve had in a long time, no doubt.”
Hermon’s Tyler Fournier gave the East a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth with a two-out double down the left-field line that drove home Dexter, who had reached on his second single of the game.
Pulver extended the East’s cushion to 5-1 in the seventh, following a bunt single and stolen base by Bangor Christian’s Bradley Wilcox with a two-run, inside-the-park home run to deep center.