The Milford, Massachusetts, American Legion baseball team trailed by four runs 5½ innings into its Northeast Regional opener against Pawtucket, Rhode Island, on Thursday.
Now it is one of just two undefeated clubs remaining in the eight-team, double-elimination event.
Right-hander Dan Avery yielded four hits and no earned runs over six innings, and Milford erupted for four runs in the top of the fifth inning and six more runs in the seventh to pull away to an 11-1, seven-inning victory over Bangor in a winners’ bracket game Friday afternoon at Palmer Field in Middletown, Connecticut.
Maine champion Bangor, now 24-6 overall and 1-1 in the regional, faces Essex, Vermont, in an elimination game at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Essex (29-10, 1-1) stayed alive earlier Friday by eliminating Dover, New Hampshire, 7-5.
Milford, which rallied for a 5-4 win over Pawtucket to advance to its second-day matchup with Bangor, will play at 7 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Friday’s late winners’ bracket contest between RCP (Rocky Hill-Cromwell-Portland), Connecticut, and tournament host Middletown, Connecticut.
Avery struck out six batters and walked two while keeping the Bangor batters largely off balance with a mix of fastballs and breaking pitches.
He and reliever Cameron Cossette, who worked a scoreless seventh despite allowing three singles, were backed by a 12-hit offense. Leadoff batter Matthew DeCina had three singles, two runs scored and an RBI, while Joe White and Kevin Lynch singled twice apiece and Michael Ryan, Brendan Pounds and Mike Cafarella each doubled.
Ryan and teammates Andrew McMillan and Dan Mantoni each had two RBIs.
Bangor leadoff batter Trevor DeLaite singled twice and reached base in all four of his plate appearances while Ryan Brookings added a double.
Milford held just a 1-0 lead through four innings before breaking the game open and chasing Bangor starter Justin Courtney in the top of the fifth.
Cafarella led off with a four-pitch walk and Lynch singled to center before DeCina loaded the bases with a bunt single toward third base.
McMillan hit a two-run single to right to drive home Cafarella and Lynch and make it 3-0.
After McMillan stole second, Mantoni hit a sacrifice fly to center to drive home DeCina before McMillan scored the final run of the uprising on a first-pitch wild pitch to Ryan — Courtney’s last pitch of the game.
Peter Kemble came on to retire Ryan and the next batter he faced to end the inning, but the Massachusetts state champs had a 5-0 lead.
Bangor got an unearned run back in the bottom of the inning. Brookings doubled to the warning track in left field with one out and went to third on a groundout by Kemble before scoring when Mantoni mishandled DeLaite’s two-out grounder to shortstop for the game’s lone error.
But Milford exploded for six runs in the top of the seventh to build its 10-run cushion, capitalizing on a two-run double by Ryan, an RBI double by Pounds, an RBI single by Mantoni and three Bangor wild pitches — two that allowed runners to score — to extend its lead to 11-1.
Bangor got singles from Ben Crichton, Marcus McCue and DeLaite off Cossette to load the bases with two out in the bottom of the seventh, but an inning-ending flyout also ended the game under the 10-run rule.
Courtney pitched 4⅓ innings for Bangor, allowing five earned runs on seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
The University of Maine-bound right-hander retired the first seven batters he faced — four on ground balls — before Cafarella pulled a drive over the head of Bangor right fielder Ryan Gagne that then bounced over the fence for a one-out, ground-rule double in the top of the third.
Lynch grounded a single to left that advanced Cafarella to third, and DeCina singled to center to drive home the game’s first run.