BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor High School baseball team’s two years of first-round postseason frustration ended Thursday with a 6-3 Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinal victory over Brunswick at Mansfield Stadium.
Oh, there were moments of concern — five in particular, matching the number of errors committed by the Rams’ defense.
But Justin Courtney’s six-hit, complete-game pitching effort and a five-run second-inning uprising were ample countermeasures that lifted top-ranked Bangor to its eighth straight victory and a berth in Saturday’s regional semifinals at home against No. 4 Cony of Augusta.
Cony (10-7) defeated No. 5 Mt. Blue of Farmington 4-0 in its quarterfinal Wednesday and now has won nine of its last 10 games since a 10-0 loss to Bangor on May 8.
“I’m just glad we got that one out of the way,” said Bangor coach Jeff Fahey, whose teams had fallen in the quarterfinals as a top-three seed in both 2012 and 2013.
Courtney, who pitched an Eastern A-leading four shutouts during the regular season, did not allow an earned run during his 96-pitch effort against a ninth-ranked Brunswick team that Bangor defeated for the third time this spring.
The University of Maine-bound righthander struck out the first four batters he faced and eight hitters overall while not allowing a walk.
And when the Bangor defense was shaky, Courtney was unflappable.
“When you have those bad throws or those spells where you just can’t seem to make the routine plays you’ve just got to bear down and make your pitch,” he said. “You can’t try to get ahead of yourself and just try do it all yourself, you’ve still got to have faith in your teammates. We’ve got a great team and great guys behind me and I think we showed it tonight.”
That support was particularly evident in the bottom of the second, after Brunswick had capitalized on three Bangor errors to grab a 2-1 lead in the top of the inning.
The Rams sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs — all after two were out.
Riley McKay was hit by a Blair Larson pitch to open the Bangor second, then took second on an infield hit to shortstop by Hunter Boyce. McKay was forced out at third on a sacrifice attempt back to the mound by Johnny Cote, but Kyle Stevenson worked a walk to load the bases.
Larson retired the next batter, but Trevor DeLaite lined the first pitch he saw into center field for a two-run double that gave Bangor a 3-2 lead.
Courtney singled sharply to left to drive home Stevenson, and Andrew Hillier followed with his second RBI single in as many innings before Sam Huston’s infield hit to third base drove home the final run of the inning.
“When we put that five-spot up it really took the nervousness away,” said Hillier.
Bangor’s offense went quiet when Brunswick reliever John Parker took over in the third inning, with the Rams managing just two baserunners the rest of the way — both on walks.
But Brunswick (9-9) couldn’t break through against Courtney, save for one moment in the sixth when Chuck Lowell hit a leadoff double and scored on an errant throw after a fielder’s choice grounder by Ryan Maciejewski.
But the Rams escaped a further threat to their lead as the shortstop-second base combo of Stevenson and Cote turned Bangor’s second double play in as many innings.
Bangor’s earlier double play was the defensive gem of the day as turned in by Hillier at first base.
Brunswick’s Adam Casey grounded to Huston at third base with one out and a runner at second. Huston’s throw to first was a wide one-hopper to the outfield side, but Hillier made a sprawling lunge for the ball while keeping a foot on first base, then spotted Dragons’ baserunner Ryan Brescia racing around third base and toward home.
Hillier scrambled up and fired to Boyce at the plate for the inning-ending tag.