Sometimes the timeliness of a hit is more important than the hit itself — a reality that helped the Bangor Comrades score a 7-1 victory over Cheshire, Connecticut, in the opening round of the American Legion Northeast Regional baseball tournament Thursday at Palmer Field in Middletown, Connecticut.
Bangor scored four runs on two-out hits while building its lead, while the Connecticut state champions were unable to produce in the clutch and stranded a staggering 17 runners on base against the Comrades’ pitching tandem of Trevor DeLaite and Andrew Hillier.
Bangor (24-5) faces Milford, Massachusetts, in a winners’ bracket game at 4:30 p.m. Friday. Milford (26-9) edged Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 5-4, in a first-round game Thursday.
Cheshire (31-12) plays Pawtucket (29-13) in a 9:30 a.m. elimination game Friday.
DeLaite, a left-hander who will be a junior at Bangor High School this fall, battled through some early control issues. He allowed one earned run on nine hits with six strikeouts, six walks and two hit batters before giving way to Hillier with two on and one out in the bottom of the eighth.
Hillier retired the next two batters to get out of the inning, then pitched a scoreless ninth.
Third baseman Ben Crichton was one hitting star for the Comrades, driving home three runs with a pair of two-out singles. DeLaite added a double, two singles, two runs scored and a sacrifice fly to Bangor’s 11-hit attack. Ryan Brookings tripled and singled, Sam Huston doubled and Hiller plated two runs with a single and a sacrifice fly.
Dan Schock, Mike Purcell and Matt Hickey each singled twice for Cheshire.
A two-out RBI single by Hillier gave Bangor a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Kyle Stevenson was hit by a pitch with one out, stole second and went to third on a Justin Courtney groundout before Hillier drilled the ball down the right-field line to give the Comrades the early lead.
Cheshire loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the second on two walks and a single to left by No. 9 hitter Joe Anderson before DeLaite induced Wes Robertson to pop out.
It was one of 12 outs DeLaite recorded either by fly ball or line drive.
DeLaite led off the Bangor third by doubling to center, advanced when Stevenson singled off the glove of Anderson, the Cheshire second baseman, and scored when Courtney grounded into a double play.
Cheshire loaded the bases with none out in the bottom of the inning on singles by Purcell and Pat Downey and DeLaite’s second hit batter of the game, Ryan Pierpont.
The Connecticut champions managed just one run on a one-out, bases-loaded walk to John Koski as DeLaite induced two flyouts and struck out Anderson to keep the Comrades in front 2-1.
DeLaite — who did not allow a run in 13 innings of state-tournament pitching — allowed four hits, five walks and the two hit batters in the first four innings but minimized the damage by stranding nine Cheshire runners on base during that time, five in scoring position.
Brookings led off the Bangor fifth by hustling out a triple to left-center. Ryan Gagne as hit by a pitch, then DeLaite then hit a sacrifice fly to center to drive home Brookings.
Cheshire used a leadoff walk to Pierpont and a two-out single to left by Hickey to threaten again in the fifth, But DeLaite struck out Anderson to end the inning.
Crichton’s opposite-field, two-out single to left drove home Sam Huston in the top of the sixth to extend Bangor’s lead to 4-1. Huston doubled to left-center with one out, then advanced to third base as Hunter Boyce grounded out.
A leadoff single by Courtney in the top of the eighth chased Barnell in favor of reliever Liam Davey. Hillier then walked and a sacrifice by Huston put both runners in scoring position before Crichton hit a two-out, two-run single to left-center to make it 6-1.
Barnell allowed five earned runs on eight hits with six strikeouts, one walk and two hit batters.
Bangor added an insurance run in the ninth as DeLaite hit a leadoff single, was sacrificed to second by Stevenson and went to third on a passed ball after a walk to Courtney before scoring on Hillier’s sacrifice fly to right.