BANGOR, Maine — Brian Peirce had no idea he was going to pitch for District 3 champ Bangor in Thursday’s crucial Pool A game against U.S. West titlist Wailuku, Hawaii.
But when manager Barrett Dionne decided early in the game to pull starter Nick Cowperthwaite after two innings so Cowperthwaite could remain eligible to pitch in Friday’s semifinal if Bangor advanced, Pierce got the call.
And the righthander, who will be a senior at Bangor High School in the fall, responded with five innings of five-hit shutout relief as Bangor triumphed 3-1 to become the first District 3 team to finish atop a pool and go undefeated. Bangor is 4-0.
The Pool A winners will take on Pool B runner-up, U.S. Southwest titlist West University from Houston, Texas (3-1) in Friday’s 11:30 a.m. semifinal.
Wailuku wound up 2-2 and was eliminated so Dumfries, Virginia, earned the second spot out of Pool A with its 3-1 record and will face Pool A champ Latin America (4-0) in Friday’s 2:30 p.m. semi.
Bangor center fielder Ryan Brookings snapped a 1-1 tie with a clutch two-out, two-run, ground-ball single down the third base line in the fifth inning.
“I just had to work downhill, keep my composure and trust my teammates,” said Peirce, who had one ineffective outing in the district tournament against Hampden.
“I wasn’t shocked that I pitched but I was a little surprised,” said Peirce, who pitched one inning for the Bangor High School junior varsity team this spring.
Cowperthwaite had thrown 30 pitches over the first two innings and one more pitch would have required him to get one day’s rest before pitching again under SLWS guidelines.
Dionne explained that he felt it was going to be a low-scoring game so he decided to pull Cowperthwaite to give his team a better chance of winning on Friday.
Bangor didn’t want to rely on a tie-breaking formula to earn a semifinal berth.
“We knew the scenarios but we didn’t want to get in any way other than by winning,” said Bangor right fielder Trevor DeLaite, who went 4-for-4 and is now 9-for-13 in his three SLWS games. “We wanted to show everyone we’re one of the best teams here and we to compete and win this thing.”
Peirce had baserunners in every inning but was able to pitch out of numerous jams.
He walked four and didn’t strike out anyone. He threw 69 pitches of which 37 were strikes.
Peirce limited Wailuku to an 0-for-4 showing with men in scoring position and 2-for-10 with men on base.
“This is the best experience I’m ever going to have,” said Peirce who mixed in his fastball, curve, split-fingered fastball and two-seam fastball. “My curve was shaky early because I didn’t have too much time to warm up. But I got more comfortable as the game wore on and my curve worked really well [later].”
“He was a real good pitcher,” said Wailuku left fielder Skyelor Ishikawa, who had a triple in three at-bats against Peirce. “He mixed in his curve and located his fastball well.
“We had runners in scoring position but we just couldn’t cash them in,” added Ishikawa.
Kyle Stevenson triggered Bangor’s decisive two-run rally in the fifth inning with a sinking liner in front of the diving center fielder that skipped by him for a double.
Ben Crichton walked and DeLaite looped a single to center to load the bases.
Derek Fournier hit into a 1-2-3 double play but Brookings followed by grounding his two-run single just inside the third base bag off Akoni Hamilton-Golis, who turned in a fine complete-game performance.
“With first base open, I thought he’d throw me a curve but he threw me a fastball right down the middle. It was waist-high where I like it and I turned on it,” said Brookings.
“It was inside but it was a little high,” said Hamilton-Golis, who allowed 10 hits with two strikeouts and two walks.
Bangor took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on singles by Stevenson and DeLaite and Fournier’s RBI groundout.
Hawaii answered with an unearned run off Cowperthwaite in the bottom of the second on a second baseman’s throwing error, a hit batter, a fielder’s choice and Colby Tam’s RBI single.
Bangor turned two double plays behind Peirce and a runner’s interference call resulted in another. Catcher Fournier gunned down two potential base stealers.
Stevenson had a double and two singles to complement DeLaite’s four-hit game. Jake Ireland singled twice.
Tam had two doubles and a single to pace Wailuku and Ishikawa had his long triple to left.