BANGOR, Maine — The sixth-seeded Messalonskee High School Eagles collected just four hits in Wednesday’s Eastern Maine Class A playoff quarterfinal against third seed Bangor at Mansfield Stadium.
But the defending state champions had two of them in a two-run fifth-inning rally, during which the Rams committed three of their four errors, and they received clutch relief efforts from Jake Dexter and Devin Warren to upset the Rams 3-2.
Messalonskee of Oakland (11-6) will face the winner of Thursday’s 4 p.m. quarterfinal between No. 2 Hampden Academy (14-2) and No. 7 Lewiston (10-6) in Saturday’s semifinals.
Bangor wound up 12-5 and, for the second straight year, the Rams were upset in the quarterfinals by a lower-seeded team they had beaten twice during the regular season. As the top seed last season, the Rams were upset by No. 8 Hampden Academy 3-2 in 11 innings.
With the score tied 1-1, Justin Courtney retired the first hitter in the fifth but Dexter then reached on an infield error.
Dexter stole second, continued to third on a catcher’s throwing error and scored on a wild pitch.
Jared Cunningham lined a single to left-center and eventually raced to third on an errant pickoff attempt.
Josh Woodard then poked an RBI single to right past the drawn-in infield.
“I was just looking to put the ball in play. There was a guy on third and their infield was in. [Courtney] threw me a fastball on the outside corner and I slapped it the other way,” said Woodard, who played three positions.
“He has come through for us all year. He has been amazing,” said Messalonskee coach Ray Bernier.
Bangor rallied for a run in the sixth on Hunter Boyce’s one-out single off reliever Nick Mayo, a walk to Kyle Stevenson and Carl Farnham’s sharp RBI single to center. Stevenson hustled to third.
But Warren came on and, after Farnham stole second, he induced a foul-out to third for the second out. After issuing an intentional walk to Ram RBI leader Anthony Capuano, Warren then got an inning-ending strikeout.
“I knew I had to get the job done,” said Warren. “Throwing strikes is the key. Our defense plays [well] behind us.”
He said he used a high fastball to induce the critical foul-out.
“I couldn’t take a chance [giving up] a ground ball,” said Warren, who then used an even higher fastball to notch the strikeout.
“With two strikes [1-2 count], I wanted to throw a pitch out of the [strike] zone,” said Warren.
Warren pitched a perfect seventh for his second save.
Bangor took a 1-0 lead with an unearned run in the first on a two-out double-error and a Sam Huston fly ball that was misplayed into a triple.
Messalonskee tied it in the third when Trevor Gettig reached on a third-strike wild pitch, moved to second on Dexter’s base hit and advanced to third on a wild pitch before scoring on Cunningham’s groundout.
Bangor loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the third against starter Ben Frazee courtesy of two hit batters and a walk, but Dexter came on to induce a pop-up.
“I threw strikes, kept it low and threw hard,” said Dexter (1-0), who pitched 2⅓ innings of two-hit shutout ball to pick up the win.
Bangor left 11 men on base, going 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
“Their bullpen came in, threw strikes and got out of a couple of big jams,” said Bangor coach Jeff Fahey, whose Rams have scored three runs or less eight times. “It has been a battle for us all year. Sometimes we came up with big hits, sometimes we didn’t. Today we didn’t.”
“And they capitalized on our mistakes,” added Bangor center fielder Parker Sanderson.
Cunningham had a double to go with his single and RBI fielder’s choice for the youthful Eagles, who had eight sophomores and freshmen among the 10 players in the starting lineup. Dexter and Woodard had the other hits.
Huston’s triple was Bangor’s only extra-base hit. Farnham, Boyce, Andrew Hiller and Capuano had singles. Hillier pitched 2⅓ innings of hitless shutout relief.