BANGOR, Maine –- Justin Courtney celebrated his 16th birthday Tuesday.
One night later, he gave his team a championship present.
Courtney, who will be a junior at Bangor High School this fall, pitched a complete-game three-hitter Wednesday evening as the Bangor Comrades defeated Brewer 8-3 to capture their first American Legion Zone 1 baseball championship since 2009.
“My goal was to put my team in a position to win, and it just so happened I went nine innings and we got it done,” said Courtney, who threw 122 pitches during his complete-game effort.
Coach Dave Morris’ club (19-2) now advances to the state tournament that begins next Wednesday at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach.
Runner-up Brewer, which outlasted Motor City 15-13 earlier Wednesday to reach the championship round, will face the yet-to-be-determined Zone 3 runner-up in a state tourney play-in game at 3 p.m. Saturday, also at Old Orchard Beach.
Courtney struck 12 batters and walked three while showing no signs of tiring late in the game as he retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced.
“The kid is growing as a pitcher right before everybody’s eyes,” said Bangor catcher Dylan Morris. “Justin’s come such a long way this summer. He’s developed a cut fastball, and I think tonight every time he got to an 0-2 count or a 1-2 count he threw that cutter and they were all off balance because it’s a tough pitch to hit.”
Bangor’s offense staked Courtney to a 6-0 lead with two-run rallies in the first, second and fourth innings — with Morris contributing a two-out, two-run single to cap off an eight-pitch at-bat against Brewer reliever Carter DeRedin in the bottom of the fourth.
“I just knew he wasn’t going to give me anything good,” said Morris, who played as a freshman at the University of Southern Maine this spring. “I was fortunate enough to spoil some pitches and then he finally missed on one pitch and I was able to get a hit on it.”
Leadoff hitter Carl Farnham had three singles for the Comrades, while No. 9 batter Seth Freudenberger had two singles and two walks and scored three runs and No. 8 hitter Bryan Rouleau tripled, singled and scored twice.
“The bottom of the order got on base and scored runs,” said coach Morris. “Our motto through the season is we really want to give each other our best, and that probably sums up what happened tonight.”
Nic Cota added a double and a single for Bangor, while Dylan Morris and Curtis Worcester each drove home two runs.
Bangor used its speed to take a 2-0 first-inning lead.
Farnham led off the inning with a single to left but was forced out on a grounder to third by Christian Corneil.
Corneil stole second and scored when Worcester beat out a two-out infield single to first base. Worcester then stole second, and he scored on Cota’s sharp single up the middle.
Rouleau lined a one-out triple to the fence in left-center in the second, and after a walk to Freudenberger he scored on a wild pitch.
Freudenberger went to third base on the play and scored to make it 4-0 when Farnham beat out an infield hit to shortstop.
Courtney, meanwhile, retired the first 14 batters he faced – including seven strikeouts and five ground-ball outs – before Brewer’s Jeremy Bissell reached on an error in the fourth inning.
Bissell scored on a Josh Gale single to cut the Falcons’ deficit to 6-1, then Brewer (12-10) added two runs in the fifth to close within 6-3.
But Bangor got those runs back an inning later after Freudenberger had a leadoff single and went to third on a hit-and-run single by Farnham . Freudenberger scored on a wild pitch and Farnham came home on a sacrifice fly by Worcester to restore the Comrades to a five-run cushion.
In the earlier game, Motor City trailed 12-4 after Brewer scored six runs in the top of the seventh but countered with six runs of its own in the bottom of the inning and then took a 13-12 lead with three eighth-inning runs.
But Brewer’s Kyle McLain and Nick Moore opened the top of the ninth with back-to-back doubles to tie the game at 13-13. Jordan Carter was walked intentionally, and after he and Moore advanced to second and third on a wild pitch, Gale singled on a 2-1 pitch with two out to drive home both runners and give the Falcons back the lead.
McLain, Brewer’s third pitcher of the game, came on to work a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth and preserve the victory.
Gale led Brewer’s 19-hit offense with three singles and a double, while Carter had two doubles – one driving home three runs in the seventh inning – and a single and No. 9 hitter Chase Allen had three singles and scored three runs.
Tyler French added a three-run double and a single while McLain and Moore also had two hits apiece.
Cam Archer had four singles and three runs scored for a Motor City team that had defeated Brewer in their four previous meetings this summer. Evan Pelkey had two doubles and a single, while Casey Estes had three singles, Tyler Eddy doubled and singled and Gabe Melmed singled twice.