BANGOR, Maine — Lengthy winning streaks in any sport are full of magic moments, and for Andrew Hillier that moment came Monday night.
The Bangor first baseman belted a game-winning three-run double with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning to rally the undefeated Comrades to a dramatic 4-3 victory over Hampden in a battle of American Legion Zone 1 baseball powers at Mansfield Stadium.
“I was just trying to pick a pitch that I could drive and I found one and put the bat on the ball,” said Hillier, who will be a junior at Bangor High School this fall. “I was just trying to spoil the pitches that were outside that I really couldn’t drive until I got my pitch to hit.”
Kyle Stevenson reached on an infield error to open the Bangor seventh, and Trevor DeLaite followed with his second single of the game — and the Comrades suddenly had hope.
Stevenson was forced out at third base on a fielder’s choice grounder by Carl Farnham, the last batter faced by Hampden starter Matt Martin.
But a wild pitch by reliever Shawn Smith advanced DeLaite and Farnham into scoring position, then Justin Courtney was walked intentionally to load the bases and set up a force play at any base.
Hillier then worked Smith deep into the count before lining the eighth pitch of his at-bat to the right-center field gap to clear the bases and give the zone-leading Comrades their 14th victory of the summer.
“They walked Justin, and that’s all I wanted, to be in that situation to drive the runners in,” said Hillier. “I didn’t want to let my teammates down.”
The late heroics made a winner out of Bangor left-hander Curtis Worcester, who struck out 15 batters and walked just two — one intentionally — during a 104-pitch complete-game pitching performance.
Worcester, who recently finished his freshman year at the University of Southern Maine, struck out at least two batters in six of his seven innings on the mound.
“You’ve just got to trust your guys that they’ll get the hits,” said Worcester. “A lot of people in my situation when you’re not hitting for yourself, at least until the end, might have given up but I believed in them, I knew we’d get it done. Going into the seventh it’s a little hard to believe you’ll get it done, but once we got a couple of guys on I knew we’d win this game.”
Martin, a senior-to-be at Hampden Academy who has verbally committed to continue his career at the University of Maine in the fall of 2014, allowed three runs on five hits in 6⅓ innings, with two of those runs scoring after he left the mound. The hard-throwing righthander struck out six batters and walked two before giving way to Smith.
Until Hillier’s final-inning heroics, Smith was the game’s offensive star. The former standout at Bucksport High School went 3-for-3 with two RBIs during an effort highlighted by a mammoth fourth-inning home run off Worcester that snapped a 1-1 tie.
Hampden (11-3) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, as Will Perkins hit a one-out single to the shortstop hole, stole second base and scored when Smith rapped a two-out single down the left-field line.
Bangor tied the game in its half of the first. DeLaite capped off an eight-pitch at-bat of his own with a leadoff single to right, advanced to third on groundouts by Farnham and Courtney and scored on a wild pitch.
Worcester struck out eight of the first 12 batters he faced before Smith rudely interrupted that start by hammering a first-pitch fastball for a no-doubt home run to left field that gave Hampden a 2-1 lead with one out in the fourth.
The River Dogs added to their lead with an unearned run thanks to two Bangor errors in the fifth. Jared Cox led off by reaching on an infield error, then was sacrificed to second base by Patrick Later before scoring to make it 3-1 as Tristan Gardner reached on a two-out error.
Hampden loaded the bases with no one out in the sixth as Matt Palmer walked, Smith hit a first-pitch single to left and Justin Kasprzak was intentionally walked after an errant pickoff throw advanced Palmer and Smith to second and third.
Worcester erased that threat by himself, striking out the next three batters to leave Bangor within a magic moment of victory.