BANGOR, Maine — A picture-perfect Sunday afternoon served as the backdrop to a nearly perfect performance by the Bangor all-stars, who opened the Senior League World Series with an 8-1 victory over Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, at Mansfield Stadium.
The Maine District 3 champions scored their fifth consecutive victory over Team Canada in SLWS play — outscoring their neighbors to the north by a combined 33-3 since 2009 — as pitchers Justin Courtney and Andrew Hillier combined on a four-hitter while backed by errorless defense and 10 different Bangor players contributed a hit.
“The game plan went perfect,” said Bangor head coach Barrett Dionne, whose team returns to pool play at 5 p.m. Monday against Asia-Pacific champion Makati City, Philippines. “Justin went out and threw strikes and we had timely hitting finally. That’s what W’s consist of, timely hitting and good pitching, and that’s what we got today.”
Courtney, who already has made a verbal commitment to continue his baseball career at the University of Maine after he graduates from Bangor High School next spring, struck out eight batters and walked just one while allowing a run on three hits through 4⅔ innings.
“I thought he was awesome, unbelievable,” said Cape Breton head coach Derrick Hanna. “He was unbelievably fast. He was the fastest pitcher our kids have seen this year by far. Hats off to him, he pitched phenomenal.”
In the second Pool A game, U.S. West champ Pearl City, Hawaii, edged U.S. Southeast champ Martinez, Ga., 1-0.
Courtney struck out four of the six batters he faced and baffled Cape Breton with a mix of pitches before giving way to Hillier after reaching a 60-pitch Senior League maximum that allows him to pitch next with a minimum of just two days’ rest.
By that time Bangor already had built a 6-0 lead.
“I felt as sharp as I’ve felt all year,” said Courtney, who threw 64 pitches but had not reached the 60-pitch threshold before throwing his first pitch to the last batter he faced. “All my pitches were working, and it was just overall a great outing.”
Hillier yielded an RBI double to Ryan Lawless, the first batter he faced, but did not allow another hit while striking out three batters in 2⅓ innings of relief.
“We went into the game with Justin throwing thinking that if it was a close game I probably was going to ride him as long as we could,” said Dionne. “But if we jumped on them and got a few runs I’d try to keep him under 60 pitches so we could come back with him in a couple of days, and it worked out perfectly.”
The Canadian champions had no such pitching flexibility, its first three pitchers (Lawless, Adam MacDonald and Kenzie Lahey) were unavailable after reaching pitch limits during the latter stages of their national tournament at Thunder Bay, Ontario. which required the Cubs to win both their semifinal and championship game last Thursday.
“”That would be a very good idea if they ended [the Canadian tourney] so everyone has the four days off like the rest the [SLWS] pitchers,” said Hanna. “We came here with our top three pitchers unavailable to pitch, and it’s the same for [Monday].
Hanna said Lawless would be eligible to pitch in Cape Breton’s 1 p.m. game Monday against Pearl City, Hawaii, but Bangor capitalized on its opportunities against the rest of the shorthanded Cape Breton staff after leaving the bases loaded during a scoreless first inning.
Andrew Elston and Kyle Stevenson drew walks off Cubs’ starter Patrick Lahey to open the Bangor second, and both runners advanced when Ben Crichton grounded out to first base. Elston then scored when Lahey threw a wild pitch on an 0-2 pitch to Hillier, and Hillier singled to left on the next pitch to drive home Stevenson and give Bangor a 2-0 lead.
Crichton blooped a shallow two-run single down the right-field line to highlight a four-run, five-hit uprising an inning later as the District 3 champions broke the game open.
Courtney popped a leadoff single to center, moved to third on Sam Huston’s single to left and scored on Jordan Derrah’s sacrifice fly to center.
Cape Breton reliever Austin MacIsaac retired the next batter he faced, but Elston doubled to right-center to drive home Huston and Crichton followed Stevenson’s single to the shortstop hole with a bloop hit just beyond the infield grass along the right-field line that none of three pursuing Cape Breton defenders could reach, allowing both Elston and Stevenson to score and stretching Bangor’s lead to 6-0.
“You’ve just got to get the job done somehow, and I did it,” said Crichton. “I wasn’t sure about it, I was just going to run it out hard and see what I could do, and it fell in. That’s all that counts, I guess.”
MacDonald hit a pinch single to left to open the Cape Breton fifth, and special pinch-runner Taylor Slade scored the Cubs’ lone run two outs later when Lawless greeted Hillier with a double to right.
Bangor added its final runs in the sixth on RBI singles by Derrah and Jon Stanhope.
“I think now that we’ve got our first win under our belts the sky’s the limit for us,” said Courtney. “We’ve just got to keep playing our game and hopefully we can move on to Friday’s and Saturday’s games and see what we can do.”
In the nightcap, Hawaii’s Trestan Nakamura pitched six scoreless innings to propel his team to the win. He gave up a walk and six hits while striking out one. Dane Kaneshiro came on in the seventh to earn the pitching victory as he struck out all three batters.
Brandon Henderson’s RBI single in the bottom of the seventh gave Hawaii the winning edge.
Georgia’s Evan Krenz also turned in a strong pitching performance as he didn’t allow an earned run, gave up just one hit, walked one and struck out four in 5 1/3 innings. Evans also singled in the first and third innings.