BANGOR, Maine — Consistent hitting and mistake-free defense earned Bronco Little League a ticket to the state Junior League baseball tournament this weekend with a 13-6 victory over the Bangor all-stars in the District 3 championship game Monday night at Mansfield Stadium.
“We’re fortunate enough in the sense that we have 13 kids who can hit the ball,” said Bronco head coach Pete Huston. “They get up, swing the bat, put it in play, and things happen. Last night, we had seven or eight hits but we hit a lot of ball at people and tonight we hit the ball and it fell in [the gaps].”
“They got two-out hits with guys on base, and we did not,” said Bangor head coach Jim Owens.
Bronco will play in Saturday’s state-tourney opener at Mansfield against the District 1 champ at 1 p.m. and against the District 6 champ at 7 p.m.
Similar to Sunday’s game, Bronco got off to a fast start by taking a lead in the first inning. Ben Huston led off the game with a walk and stole second. Matt Leach drove him in with a double and Tyler Beaton drove Leach in with a single to give Bronco a 2-0 lead.
Beaton paced Bronco, which includes players from Hampden, Hermon, Newburgh and Winterport, with two singles, three RBI and two runs scored.
Bangor responded in the next half inning when Jesse Colford hit a two-out single and George Payne followed with a walk. Tanner Goodine walked to load the bases, setting up Alex Batchelder’s two-run single that tied the game.
Colford led Bangor offensively with two singles, an RBI and a run scored. He also took the loss on the mound with five innings pitched, giving up nine runs on 10 hits while striking out one and walking two.
Bronco’s Zach Nash led off the third inning with a double, with Nick Robidoux following with a walk. Ben Huston reached base on a fielding error, which also allowed Nash to score. Jackson Gilmore drove in Robidoux with a sacrifice flyout.
Bangor’s three errors costed the team dearly in the fourth inning, according to Owens.
“[The errors] got us behind a little bit. The fourth inning really hurt us. We were right with them and then they put up a five spot,” he said.
After Bangor scored one run in the top of the fourth to come within one run, Gilmore, Casey Sudbeck, and Tyler Knights all hit RBI singles for Bronco in the bottom half while Nash finished up the scoring with a two-run single.
“We didn’t make any errors today. You can’t give any extra outs to a team like Bangor. The scoreboard shows that we made no errors and that was our goal,” Huston said.
Bangor rallied in the fifth when Nick Cowperthwaite hit a single and Colford drove him in. John Clement reached first after being hit by a pitch in the sixth and Derek Fournier plated him in with a single. Cameron Burpee drove in Fournier with a single, and with its three runs combined in the fifth and sixth, Bangor climbed back to within three runs.
Bronco put the game away for good in the sixth by putting up four runs, with Gilmore, Sudbeck, and Andrew Gendreau hitting RBI singles and Beaton hitting a two-run single.
“I think the difference was right up until the last inning when they got three hits after we each had 11. They got their hits with men on base, and we didn’t. They are very consistent. They got hits with a man on first, it seemed like we didn’t always do that,” Owens said.
Beaton recorded the win for Bronco, going 5 2/3 innings while giving up four runs on nine hits and striking out one, walking one and hitting a batter.
“I told them what a great job they did. We played six or seven games this week, plus all the practices. Just trying to encourage them to keep playing baseball [in high school,” said Owens.
Huston told his team to enjoy the ride.
“[I told them] them to enjoy it and soak it all up because these things are special,” he said.