BANGOR, Maine — This was a celebration 35 years in the making for the Bangor American Legion baseball program.
So even if a stubborn Bessey Motors of South Paris club forced the Comrades to play an extra game Sunday, they weren’t about to let their summer-long ambition go unfulfilled.
The deciding chapter of that mission was left to Trevor DeLaite and Andrew Hillier, who pitched Bangor to its first Legion state title since 1979 with a 2-0 victory over Bessey Motors in their winner-take-all final game at the Winkin Complex.
“We were all tired, but that’s something you can’t think about,” said Hillier, named the tourney’s most valuable after scattering four hits over 13 scoreless innings on the mound with a win and a save while batting .385 with five RBIs in six games over five days. “You’ve just got to throw it out the window and keep going.”
DeLaite and Hillier limited Bessey Motors to two hits in the second game of a championship-round doubleheader forced when Bessey Motors edged Bangor 3-2 earlier in day.
The duo, who teamed with ace right-hander Justin Courtney to pitch Bangor High School to the Class A state championship in June, recorded six strikeouts and one walk while allowing just one runner to reach second base.
“It’s been a long time coming, we’ve worked awful hard for this,” said Bangor Legion coach Dave Morris. “What a great year for the kids. It’s tough to win a state championship in high school, and then to have the focus and tenacity and energy to come out here and play 18 regular-season games, play in two tournaments and lose games in both tournaments but come back to win a state championship in Legion just makes me proud of them.
“This has been a great run for us, a great journey.”
Second baseman Sam Huston supplied all of Bangor’s offense in the deciding game with a two-run, sixth-inning double off left-hander Mike Mageles.
“We’d been hitting the ball all day and we knew one of them was going to fall in,” said Huston, whose father Paul played on Bangor’s 1979 American Legion state championship team.
The Comrades (23-5) advance to the Northeast Regional at Middletown, Connecticut, where they will open against the Eastern Connecticut representative at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Bessey Motors finished 22-5.
“We had a pretty good summer and a good run in the tournament,” said Bessey Motors coach Shane Slicer. “Bangor got us twice, and other than that you can’t really look at any other mistakes we made in the tournament other than facing a very good baseball team.”
DeLaite, who pitched seven shutout innings in a 10-0 victory over Bessey Motors on Friday night, yielded two hits while striking out three over the first five innings before leaving the game after pitching the Legion limit of 12 innings over three days.
“I just went out there and pitched to contact and trusted my defense. I went right at them,” said DeLaite, a left-hander. “I felt good and my arm felt rested so I just went for it.”
The right-handed Hillier, who pitched a nine-inning shutout Thursday against Pastime Club of Lewiston, threw four innings of hitless relief for the save.
“I was running on adrenalin basically, my arm was Jello,” he said.
Bangor’s pitching staff needed its high level of proficiency to outduel Mageles, who scattered 10 hits during an efficient 92-pitch, complete-game performance.
Three Bangor hits came consecutively in the top of the sixth to account for the game’s only runs.
Courtney hit a one-out single to center, then Hillier singled to center. Huston then lined the ball into the right-center field gap to drive home both runners, but he was thrown out at third base on the play.
“Luckily I happened to be up with runners in scoring position and got a clutch hit,” said Huston. “I just looked for my pitch to drive it the other way to move the runners over and it found the gap.”
Hillier finished the game with a triple and two singles. DeLaite and Ben Crichton each singled twice.
Bessey Motors got singles by Matt Smith in the second inning and Ty Martin in the fourth.
Earlier in the day, Riley Chickering pitched a five-hitter as Bessey Motors handed Bangor its lone tournament defeat.
The lefty struck out eight, walked two and did not allow an earned run while relying on a sharp-breaking curveball as his key pitch. Chickering retired the last 14 batters
“My off-speed stuff is definitely the stronger part of my pitching repertoire so I like to attack with the curveball to keep them off balance,” he said.
Chickering outdueled Courtney, who struck out 10 and walked no one while yielding two earned runs on six hits over seven innings.
Courtney also singled twice for the Comrades, while Brady LaFrance singled twice for Bessey Motors.
A one-out RBI single to left by Dalton Rice drove home Matt Beauchesne in the bottom of the first to stake Bessey Motors a 1-0 lead.
Zach Conley hit a two-out single in the second, stole second base, reached third on a wild pitch and scored on an infield hit by Chickering to make it 2-0.
Bangor tied the game with two unearned runs in the top of the fourth, a rally that included two Bessey Motors errors, and an RBI single to right by Crichton just after a single to center by Hunter Boyce.
Bessey Motors loaded the bases with none out in the bottom of the inning but managed just one run — albeit the game-winner— as LaFrance scored on a Courtney wild pitch.