HAMPDEN, Maine — Cooper Antone’s opposite-field single to right with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday afternoon drove home Matt Closson with the winning run as Hamdpen Academy outlasted Bangor 4-3 in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference baseball matchup at Bordick Park.
With the win Hampden (4-0) remains the only undefeated team in Eastern Maine Class A through the first two weeks of the regular season, while Bangor dips to 3-2 after losing for the second time in its last three games.
Bangor reliever Andrew Hillier retired the first two Hampden batters in the ninth before Matt Closson doubled to the left-center field gap — the Broncos’ first hit since the third inning.
After Nick Rodgerson, the No. 9 hitter in the Hampden lineup, was issued an intentional walk, Antone flared an 0-1 pitch to shallow right field and Closson raced home to give coach McLean Poulin’s club the dramatic victory.
Bangor outhit Hampden 9-5 and stranded 11 baserunners compared to seven left on base by Hampden.
Bangor first baseman Anthony Capuano was the game’s lone repeat hitter, reaching base in all five of his plate appearances on three singles and two walks to go with an RBI and a run scored.
Sophomore righthander Tristan Gardner earned the pitching win, allowing one run on four hits in four innings of relief of starter Matt Palmer. Gardner’s first two pitches of his appearance went for back-to-back doubles by Tyler LaPlante and Sam Huston that enabled Bangor to forge a 3-3 tie, but he held the Rams scoreless the rest of the way.
But it wasn’t easy.
Bangor loaded the bases with no one out in the seventh on an infield hit by Carl Farnham, a sacrifice bunt by Parker Sanderson that left runners on first and second when Sanderson reached on a throwing error, and an intentional walk to Capuano.
But the Rams couldn’t cash in, as Gardner got Brendan Moore to hit a fielder’s choice grounder that produced the first out, induced a flyout to right by LaPlante too shallow for Farnham to score from third, and then got Huston to hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice.
Gardner retired the side in order in the eighth, then got out of a two-on, one-out jam in the ninth unscathed.
This marked the first meeting between the rivals since No. 8 Hampden upset top-ranked Bangor 3-2 in 11 innings during their Eastern A quarterfinal last spring, and both teams held the lead during the early stages of their first meeting of the 2013 season.
Hampden struck first with an unearned run in the bottom of the first after loading the bases with no one out against Bangor starter Justin Courtney.
Antone reached on an infield error, Logan Steward was hit by a pitch and Palmer singled to right, but only Antone scored — on a wild pitch — as Courtney struck out the next three batters.
Bangor took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third. Freshman shortstop Kyle Stevenson drew a leadoff walk, Farnham singled, and a wild pitch put both runners in scoring position. Capuano followed with a one-out single to center, with Stevenson scoring but Farnham being cut down at the plate on a throw by Rodgerson from medium center field.
Capuano went to second on the play, advanced to third on a single to right by Brendan Moore and stole home for the go-ahead run after Palmer tried to pick off Moore on a close play at first base.
Hampden countered immediately. Steward hit a one-out single to left in the bottom of the third and Palmer walked, and after Steward stole third both runners came home on Michael Ward’s two-out double to right.
Both starting pitchers were effective in their second starts of the spring. Courtney allowed three hits and two earned runs over six innings with nine strikeouts, two walks and a hit batter, while Palmer yielded two earned runs on five hits in five innings with five strikeouts and three walks.