HAMPDEN, Maine — The Bangor High School baseball team didn’t expect to score too many runs against Hampden Academy ace Alex McKenney on Wednesday.
So the Rams forced the issue, stealing six bases in as many attempts with three of those thefts leading to runs as the three-time defending state champions rebounded from their first loss of the season with a 3-2 victory over the Broncos at Bordick Park.
“Part of it is to set up hitting,” said Bangor coach Dave Morris, whose team is now 21-for-21 in stolen bases through its 7-1 start this spring. “We know (McKenney) is a fastball pitcher and we figured if we ran he’d try to get it to the plate quicker and our hitters would see some more fastballs. We just happened to be fortunate running and had some great jumps.
The kids know over there we’re going to run and it just worked out for us that we didn’t get thrown out so we kept going to the well.”
Bangor senior Peter Kemble won this 1-hour, 23-minute matchup of University of Maine-bound right-handers by limiting Hampden to two unearned runs on three hits with two strikeouts and no walks during an 81-pitch performance.
Kemble has yet to allow an earned run in 19 innings this season with just 10 hits and two walks allowed in his three complete-game victories.
“He was hitting his spots,” said Bangor catcher Derek Fournier. “We weren’t getting some calls down low but he adjusted and threw well.”
McKenney (1-2) followed a sluggish start with a strong finish, allowing just one Bangor baserunner over his final three innings. He scattered six hits with 11 strikeouts, two walks and a hit batter before giving way to Andrew Gendreau, who pitched a scoreless seventh.
“The first three innings were a little rough but after the third I settled down a little bit and started to find command of all three pitches,” McKenney said. “Before that I was shaky as far as control, I threw a lot of balls and got them in hitters’ counts so they were able to do stuff.”
Bangor took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second as Noah Missbrenner drew a leadoff walk, stole second, moved to third on an infield hit by Gary Farnham and scored on a wild pitch.
The Rams extended their lead to 3-0 an inning later thanks to three opposite-field singles. Kemble hit a leadoff single to left, stole second and scored on Fournier’s one-out single to right. Fournier stole second, advanced to third on Nick Cowperthwaite’s groundout to second and scored on Missbrenner’s single to left.
“We just want to get as many baserunners as we can and when we do we want to capitalize so we need to get them in scoring position,” said Fournier. “We want to be aggressive on the basepaths.”
Hampden (4-3) capitalized on Bangor’s only two errors of the game to pull within one run in the bottom of the third.
Nick Robidoux reached on a muffed grounder to shortstop and was sacrificed to second by Gavin Partridge before scoring on an errant outfield throw after Rece Poulin’s single to left.
Poulin reached second base on the play and came home on Nick Lorenzo’s single to right.
Kemble got out of that inning by starting a 1-6-3 double play and allowed just one more baserunner the rest of the way.
But Hampden was not without a threat, one of the 350-foot variety as McKenney pulled the first pitch in the bottom of the seventh deep down the left-field line, only to have it go over the fence just foul.
“When it first left the bat I thought, ‘Here we go,’” said Fournier, who was watching the flight of the blast from home plate. “But it was right down the line all the way and I saw it curving so I knew it was going to be foul.”