BANGOR, Maine — An unexpected yet pleasant surprise for the Bangor all-stars kept the team alive in the District 3 Junior Little League baseball tournament Sunday at Mansfield Stadium.
John Clement, known more for his pinch-running role because of his speed on the basepaths, led Bangor with a double, triple and five RBI in a 10-5 championship-round victory over Bronco Little League of Hampden, Newburgh and Winterport.
“This is the first time he has hit like that,” said Bangor head coach Jim Owens.
Bangor’s top of the order, highlighted by Nick Cowperthwaite’s single, two doubles, a triple and three runs scored, gets stronger each game, according to Owens.
“Cowperthwaite hit four for us today. The top of the order has been getting it done for us these past couple games,” Owens said.
Bangor, which eliminated Old Town 6-0 on Saturday, has emerged from the losers’ bracket to force a second game in the title round of the double-elimination tourney against Bronco. That game will be at 7 p.m. Monday at Mansfield as Bangor is now 5-1 and Bronco is 3-1.
The Bronco stars came into Sunday’s game knowing a victory would give them the District 3 championship and they got their offense going in the first inning.
Ben Huston singled on the first pitch, Matt Leach singled and Jackson Gilmore reached on an error to load the bases. Tyler Beaton hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Huston, Casey Sudbeck followed with an RBI single and Gilmore scored on Cole Tweedie’s fielder’s choice.
Leach paced Bronco with three singles and one run scored.
Bangor answered in its half of the inning when Cowperthwaite hit a two-out double and Zach Ireland singled him home to cut Bronco’s lead to 3-1.
Gilmore and Beaton led off the third inning for Bronco with back-to-back singles and Sudbeck reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Noah Gardner and Ryan Hoogterp laid down bunts that brought Gilmore and Beaton home.
Bangor rallied in the third for five runs, with Cowperthwaite, Ian Nagle and Derek Fournier quickly loading the bases.
Clement highlighted the inning with a three-run triple, giving Bangor its first lead of the game at 6-5. After 2 1/3 innings and 73 pitches, Bronco starter Sudbeck was pulled in favor of Zach Nash.
“After the third inning, they realized [Sudbeck] wasn’t invincible,” Owens said. “It was really warm out today. We had some good at-bats and the first, second, third hitters did their job.”
Bangor drove in four more runs in the fourth with a rally once again starting with Cowperthwaite and ending with Clement. The pair both hit triples, with Clement’s triple driving in two runs to complete Bangor’s scoring.
Bangor pitcher Tanner Goodine pitched a complete game, going seven innings and giving up five runs on 10 hits while striking out one and walking one.
“Bangor played a complete game today. I don’t think we responded well to their scoring runs,” Bronco Little League head coach Pete Huston said. “These kids are all great. Tomorrow we’ll have to be stronger, disciplined and mentally tough. We will compete and I believe we can win. You have to play all 21 outs.”
Owens says the team is feeling no pressure.
“The kids are having fun, staying relaxed, laughing with each other in the dugout,” he said.
On Saturday, Bangor advanced behind Cowperthwaite, who pitched seven shutout innings while allowing three hits, striking out six and not walking a batter in an efficient 75 pitches.
Cowperthwaite’s RBI triple highlighted Bangor’s two-run third inning. He also singled twice. Derek Fournier chipped in with two doubles, a single and two RBI and Cameron Burpee notched two singles.
Nick Magoon, Cole Daniel and Baxter Smith each singled for Old Town.