BANGOR, Maine — Will Manning’s batting duties for the Hampden Academy baseball team were confined largely to a pinch-hitting role through the team’s first 10 games of the spring.
But given a spot in the starting lineup Wednesday afternoon, the senior designated hitter made the most of it — contributing a double, two singles and three RBIs to back the six-hit pitching of Matt Martin and Tristan Gardner as Hampden defeated Bangor 8-2 in a Class A matchup at Mansfield Stadium.
“All through our lineup we’ve been struggling at the plate in the last few games, but the guys have been working hard and Will in particular has looked really good in practice,” said Hampden coach McLean Poulin. “He deserved the shot to get some at-bats and he came through in a big way today.”
The win was the third straight for Hampden over the Rams dating back to last spring’s 11-inning victory in the Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinals.
The Broncos, who were coming off a 4-1 loss at top-ranked Oxford Hills of South Paris last Friday, used the victory to remain in second place in Eastern A with a 9-2 record.
“We didn’t want to drop two straight,” said Martin. “We wanted to get the momentum going again. We were doing well before the Oxford Hills game but lost that one and we just wanted to get things started up again.”
Third-seeded Bangor fell to 8-4 after absorbing its second straight loss.
“The first game we played against them this year (a 4-3, eight-inning loss at Hampden) we outhit them,” said Bangor coach Jeff Fahey. “I thought we could stay with them but today they outplayed us. We helped them out quite a bit, but they played better than we did, that’s all.
“At this point in the season they’re better than we are, but we were better than they were last year and they beat us in the playoffs, so you never know.”
Manning’s day was highlighted by a two-run double that sparked a three-run second-inning rally and an RBI single during a four-run seventh-inning uprising that put the game away.
Nick Rodgerson, Matt Palmer and Sam Ward each added two singles to Hampden’s 12-hit attack, while Logan Steward contributed a two-run double.
Martin, Manning and Ward, the 7-8-9 batters in the order, went a combined 6 for 12 at the plate with three runs scored and four RBIs.
“We talked before the game about having an aggressive approach,” said Manning. “We’ve been hitting the cage pretty hard this week and we pulled through today.”
Martin pitched the first six innings to improve his record this spring to 5-0. The junior righthander, who last week verbally committed to join the University of Maine baseball program after graduating from high school in 2014, struck out 11 batters — seven during the first three innings — while walking three and allowing one earned run.
“I had a couple of extra days rest, so I had three or four days to throw light bullpen (sessions) before coming back,” said Martin, who threw 105 pitches. “I labored for a little while there, but in the beginning I felt good. I had a lot of zip on my fastball.
“We were getting the low outside corner, so I felt if I could live there that’s a tough pitch to hit.”
Gardner, a sophomore, worked a 1-2-3 seventh.
The Broncos reached Bangor starter Greg Duff (4-1) for three unearned runs after there were two out and nobody on in the top of the second. Michael Ward singled and Martin reached on the first of two Bangor errors in the inning before Manning blasted a first-pitch fastball to deep left field for a two-run double that broke a scoreless tie.
“I remember just approaching the plate thinking I was going to swing at the first thing I got because I was real anxious to get a hit,” said Manning. “It gave me a lot of confidence for my next at-bats.”
A ground single to left by Sam Ward and a walk to Cooper Antone then loaded the bases before Manning scored as Rodgerson reached on a throwing error.
Martin did not allow a hit until Bangor’s Anthony Capuano flared an opposite-field single to left with one out in the bottom of the fourth and reached second base on the play after Hampden’s lone error of the game.
Sam Huston followed with a ground single up the middle to drive home Capuano and cut the Rams’ deficit to 3-1.
Hampden got that run back immediately. Rodgerson opened the Hampden fifth with a single to left, went to second on a single to center by Palmer and the stole third base before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Matt Closson.
Bangor had four hits and five total baserunners in the bottom of the fifth, but managed just one run as two runners were cut down on the basepaths. Parker Sanderson had a RBI single to drive home freshman Kyle Stevenson, who had singled, stole second base and advanced to third on a single by Carl Farnham.
Hampden broke the game open with four runs on five hits in its half of the seventh. Singles by Rodgerson and Palmer set up Steward, who hit a blast that bounced off the left-field fence on one hop for a two-run double to give the Broncos a 6-2 cushion.
Two outs later Martin and Manning hit back-to-back RBI singles to cap off the scoring.