BANGOR, Maine — Bangor High School junior left-hander Lexi Cunningham had never pitched in a playoff game until Thursday when the fourth-seeded Rams hosted No. 5 Lewiston in the Class A North quarterfinals.
She acquitted herself well.
Cunningham tossed an unconventional 6 1/3 innings of four-hit, one-run ball to lead the Rams to a 2-1 victory over the Blue Devils.
Bangor (12-5) travels to top seed Skowhegan (15-2) in a Saturday semifinal. Lewiston, which doesn’t have a senior, finished at 11-6.
Cunningham pitched the first six innings before Bangor coach Don Stanhope brought freshman righty Morgan-Carter Moulton on to pitch the seventh.
After a strikeout and two walks, Stanhope brought Cunningham back out of the dugout and she recorded the last two outs on fly balls to busy right fielder Page Cadorette, who snared five fly balls in the game.
Cunningham said she was “a little surprised” to get the start.
“I worked real hard all winter and it felt real good to be chosen today,” said Cunningham. “I thought I did real well but it was all my defense behind me. They had my back.”
She said coming off the bench to get the final two outs was “a little bit nerve-wracking.
“I just tried to throw hard,” said Cunningham, who struck out four and walked two while throwing 89 pitches, 65 for strikes.
“We hadn’t really seen a lefty all year,” said Lewiston junior catcher Meagan Gosselin. “That was a benefit on their side. She had a good changeup. She got us on the corner a lot. It was a lot harder to read.”
“She kept it on the outside so we had to extend (our arms),” said Lewiston junior right-hander Megan Theriault, who also pitched a four-hit gem.
Theriault struck out five and walked two. She threw 74 pitches, 50 for strikes.
“My changeup was really working and and my rise was also working but they started getting on that,” said Theriault.
“She was good,” said Bangor senior shortstop Emma Payne, the offensive heroine for the Rams. “She had more speed than we were expecting.”
Bangor took a 2-0 lead with single runs in the first and third innings.
Madi Drake opened the first with a line-drive single to right but she was erased at second on a fielder’s choice by Megan Conner.
Conner tried to score from first on Payne’s double to left but was thrown out at the plate by Lewiston shortstop Lexi Poulin.
Payne moved to third on the throw to the plate and scored when Moulton poked a single into center.
In the third, Drake drew a one-out walk and raced to third when Conner hit a grounder to the mound and Theriault’s accurate throw to second was misplayed for an error.
Payne then put down a bunt single to deliver Drake with what proved to be the winning run.
“I got the (bunt) sign based on where the third baseman was playing. I ended up bunting it to first but it worked out,” grinned Payne.
Lewiston broke through against Cunningham for a run in the sixth when Jordan Mynahan rifled a double to right-center and scored on Emily Mousseau’s two-out, ground-ball single to center.
The Blue Devils threatened again in the seventh with the one-out walks issued by Moulton.
But Cunningham came on and Cadorette was positioned perfectly to snare well-hit fly balls by Theriault and Mynahan.
“I’ve never been that busy in right field before. It was a lot of fun. It keeps you on your toes,” smiled Cadorette.
Payne was the game’s only repeat hitter. Drake singled and walked twice.
Jordyn Rubin singled and walked twice in four at-bats for Lewiston, who had suffered a 13-1 five-inning loss to Bangor on April 21.
“I was very proud of my girls. They didn’t give up,” said Lewiston coach Mike Child. “We came up here for our second game of the year and got our tails kicked. Today, we showed we can play with [anybody]. We just couldn’t get that big hit and that’s a credit to [Bangor].”