OAKLAND, Maine — Little separated the top two teams in the Eastern Maine Class A baseball standings during their only meeting of the regular season Wednesday, but top-ranked and undefeated Messalonskee of Oakland managed to outlast second-ranked Bangor.
Messalonskee scored three unearned runs, the final one coming from a delayed steal and an error with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning, to pull out the win over Bangor 4-3.
The two-time defending regional champions are 8-0 at the midpoint of the team’s schedule, while Bangor fell to 7-2 after having its seven-game winning streak snapped.
“We know these are two big rival teams in baseball, and it’s always going to be a good game going up against them,” said Messalonskee starting pitcher Devin Warren, who scored the winning run. “We pulled out all the stops, and we were hyped up all the time, raring to go.”
Bangor played from behind after yielding two unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning, but the Rams finally tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the sixth on a leadoff double by Trevor DeLaite, an infield groundout and a wild pitch that enabled pinch-runner Reed Brookings to score.
Meanwhile, Bangor right-hander Justin Courtney retired eight straight batters until Zach Mathieu — who had three hits in his first three at-bats — worked a seven-pitch walk with one out in the seventh.
Reliever Jordan Treadwell then came on to get Warren to hit a fielder’s choice grounder that forced Mathieu at second for the second out of the inning.
Warren stole second base, then crept toward third as Jared Cunningham was drawing a walk.
Bangor third baseman Sam Huston was off the bag, and catcher Hunter Boyce’s throw toward third went into left field, allowing Warren to come home.
“That was my plan the whole time,” said Warren. “I was creeping and just trying to make a play at that point, trying to get something going, make them make a throw and execute.”
Right-hander Jake Dexter, Messalonskee’s third pitcher of the game, got the win by holding Bangor scoreless in the top of the seventh after Brendan Moore drew a leadoff walk and pinch-runner Andrew Elston was sacrificed to second by Boyce.
Bangor did not have a 1-2-3 inning at the plate, but the Rams stranded 13 runners — leaving the bases loaded in both the third and fourth innings.
“We had our opportunities certainly, leaving 13 men on base,” said Bangor coach Jeff Fahey. “I thought we swung the bats well all day and had chances we didn’t capitalize on, we made some baserunning mistakes, we had some defensive mistakes, and we had a guy picked off. We didn’t do enough, and they did just enough.
“They’re a good team, there’s no question about it,” he added, “but I think we can play with them.”
One-out singles by Jonathan Wilkie and Mathieu in the Messalonskee first was followed by a Courtney throwing error on a double-play comebacker to the mound that loaded the bases.
Wilkie then scored on a fielder’s choice by Jared Cunningham, and Mathieu later scored on a two-out single by Ben Frazee to give coach Ray Bernier’s club a quick two-run lead.
Bangor reached Warren for its first run in the top of the fourth. Boyce and Kyle Stevenson each singled, and Jordan Derrah was hit by a pitch for the second time in as many innings to load the bases with one out.
DeLaite hit a sacrifice fly to center to drive home Boyce, but after walking Courtney intentionally, Warren escaped further damage by getting Andrew Hillier to hit an inning-ending fielder’s choice grounder — just after Hillier had scalded a shot down the right-field line that was ruled foul.
Messalonskee got that run back in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Mathieu, but Bangor closed the gap to 3-2 when Huston scored an unearned run in the fifth.