BANGOR, Maine — Bangor Christian’s upperclassmen have played in a lot of big games during their careers.
The Patriots used that experience to the team’s advantage again on Wednesday afternoon at Mansfield Stadium.
Seniors Tucker Rice and Kyle Holmes combined for five hits and eight runs batted in, while classmate Zac Palmeter pitched three solid innings of relief as Bangor Christian beat Limestone Community School/Maine School of Science and Mathematics 11-1 in five innings to secure its third straight Eastern Maine Class D baseball title.
“We’ve known each other for a while, so we play well together,” said Rice, who drove in five runs with a double and two singles. “We come into the game humble. We know what we need to do, but I think our confidence level’s pretty high right now.”
Coach Mike Poulin’s second-seeded Patriots (17-1) earned the right to play for its third consecutive state crown. The team faces Western Maine winner Wiscasset (10-9) in Saturday’s 3 p.m. championship game, also at Mansfield Stadium.
The Eagles of coach Eric McGough finished the season at 10-8.
Poulin said his team was physically and mentally prepared to win a third straight Eastern Maine title.
“They’re focused. They try to work hard in practice, get everybody else better,” he said of his seniors. “It’s just another game. They’re just used to this. Nothing fazes them.”
Holmes, who belted a double and a single with three RBIs, admitted there was some nervousness.
“Honestly, it really comes natural to us,” he said of playing well in big games.
Junior Seth Pearson and senior Zac Palmeter combined on a three-hitter. Pearson worked two hitless innings with two walks, then Palmeter scattered three hits and allowed one run.
“We knew that with injuries, [Palmeter would] have to step up as a senior, and his moment is now here,” Poulin said. “It’s good timing for us.”
Bangor Christian, which did not commit an error, took control early. It scored two runs in the first inning, then tallied six in the second.
Bangor Christian mounted a two-out rally in the first against LCS/MSSM starter Tyler Morgan. Cody Collins walked and stole second, then scored on a steal of third when the catcher’s throw sailed high and down the left-field line.
Rice followed with a hit-and-run single through the right side.
The Patriots went to work with one out in the second inning. Bryon Boutot beat out an infield single and, one out later, Palmeter grounded a single to center.
After a wild pitch, Josh Palmeter hit a chopper along the first-base line that led to a throwing error and two runs. Collins then walked, took second by defensive indifference, and Pearson was hit by a pitch, loading the bases.
Morgan was lifted in favor of left-hander Sam Kupiec, who surrendered Rice’s sharp, two-run single past the bag at first. Rice also took second uncontested, before Holmes pounded a two-run double over the left fielder’s head.
“We try to make sure we hop on them early, and our defense is solid,” Holmes said. “When we go up to bat, we just pretend like we’re in practice.”
LCS/MSSM pushed a run across in the fourth. Chris Giroux hit a pop-fly single to left, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Morgan’s groundout.
The Eagles did not get any other runners into scoring position.
Bangor Christian scored three times in the fourth on Josh Palmeter’s single, a walk, Rice’s two-run double to left-center and an RBI single by Holmes.
“It was an honor for us to play a team like that because we felt like we got better today,” McGough said. “We felt like we saw what else was out there, and I think it will give us some motivation heading into the offseason.”