BANGOR, Maine — The Penquis Navigators got all the pitching and defense they needed to play spoiler in the opening round of double-elimination play at the American Legion Zone 1 baseball tournament Monday evening.
They just couldn’t quite figure out Curtis Worcester’s full pitching arsenal.
The Bangor left-hander struck out 12 batters and walked just two while tossing a seven-hitter as the top-seeded Comrades edged No. 5 Penquis 2-0 at Husson University.
“Curtis pitched a great game,” said Bangor coach Dave Morris. “I just told him I’m glad he’s on my team. It’s great when you have a veteran like that and you can lean on his shoulders.”
Bangor (21-1) next plays third-seeded Brewer (14-8) in Tuesday’s 7 p.m. winners’ bracket game, while Penquis (11-12) faces No. 2 Hampden (16-6) in a 4 p.m. elimination game.
Worcester, who will be a sophomore at the University of Southern Maine this fall, did allow 11 baserunners in the contest — but four were thrown out on the basepaths, three on plays beginning with him throwing to first base.
“Let’s face it, that’s a kid who just went to a Division III national championship situation (at USM), and then we hadn’t seen that move before,” said Penquis coach Jon Seavey. “We had a couple of kids get caught in rundowns and picked off, and against a great team like that you can’t make those mental mistakes because they’ll make you pay for them.”
The Comrades needed Worcester near his best, because Bangor managed just seven hits off Penquis righthander Cody Caruso.
“Cody’s been our ace all year,” said Seavey. “He’s pitched some innings for us, but I asked him before the game how he felt and he said, ‘It’s Bangor, it doesn’t matter,’ and he went out and threw a whale of a baseball game.”
Caruso, a 2012 graduate of Central High School in Corinth, also kept the ball around the plate during his complete-game effort. He followed up the eight scoreless innings pitched by teammate Kaleb Smith in the Navigators’ 3-0 play-in victory over Motor City on Sunday night by allowing just one earned run while striking out two batters and walking two.
Caruso was aided by three double plays turned by the Navigators.
“I thought the Caruso kid pitched a great game and obviously they played very good defense, and everything they did we expected,” said Morris. “They’re a very good defensive team.”
Bangor finally broke through for an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Sam Huston reached on Penquis’ lone error of the contest, stole second with two outs and scored on Hunter Boyce’s single to center.
Penquis threatened against Worcester with two outs in the top of the fifth. Aron Smested flared a single to right, Tristan French had an infield hit and Zach Ramsdell was hit by an 0-2 pitch to load the bases, but Worcester got Caleb Richard to fly out to right-center.
Bangor padded its lead in the sixth, ending Penquis’ postseason streak of not allowing an earned run at 14⅓ innings.
Andrew Hillier led off the inning with his second single of the contest, was sacrificed to second by Huston and scored when Worcester pulled an RBI single to right to make it 2-0.
Penquis mounted one last threat in the top of the ninth, as Dylan Graffam drew a one-out walk and Caruso hit a two-out single to right. The runners then each moved up a base on a wild pitch, but Worcester got Smested to hit a game-ending groundout to third base.
In Monday’s first game, Brewer scored twice in the top of the ninth to cap off its rally from a 4-0 deficit and edge Hampden.
Brewer loaded the bases with one out in the ninth on walks to Tony Bissell and Matt Morrow around a single to left by Brendan Moore.
Bissell scored to snap a 4-4 tie on an infield hit to the shortstop hole by Ben Pushard, and one-out later a bases-loaded walk to Chase Allen forced home pinch-runner Carter DeRedin to give the Falcons a two-run lead.
DeRedin came on to pitch the bottom of ninth for Brewer in relief of Moore, who had thrown three innings of no-hit relief after replacing starter Tyler Alexander in the sixth.
Will Perkins singled and Matt Palmer doubled to give Hampden runners on second and third with no one out, then Shawn Smith hit a sacrifice fly to center to drive home Perkins and advance Palmer to third.
Justin Kasprzak followed by hitting a two-hopper to shortstop, from where Brewer’s Logan Rogerson threw Palmer out at the plate to prevent the tying run from scoring, and DeRedin then retired Andrew Giosia on an infield pop-up to end the game.
Hampden outhit Brewer 11-6, but the Falcons also capitalized on 11 walks and a hit batter issued by Hampden pitchers.
Hampden scored four two-out runs on five hits in the bottom of the second, with Tristan Gardner contributing a two-run ground single to left and Perkins and Palmer adding RBI hits, but Brewer chipped away at that deficit by scoring in a variety of manners.
The Falcons scored an unearned run off Hampden starter Matt Martin (6 IP, 7K, 8 BB) in the fourth and added two runs without a hit in the sixth thanks to four walks and a hit batter.
Brewer tied the game in the eighth as Rogerson reached on a one-out error, stole second and scored on a throwing error by Smith, the second of Hampden’s three pitchers.