BANGOR, Maine — Shorthanded? Who’s shorthanded?
Sure, six members of the Bangor Senior League all-star team were still in Middletown, Connecticut, competing in American Legion baseball’s Northeast Regional on Sunday afternoon, but there was plenty in reserve back home as the Maine District 3 champions surged past Regina, Saskatchewan, 7-2, in the opening game of the 2014 Senior League World Series at Mansfield Stadium.
“We have the right guys to step into the right shoes to be able to play the positions that they do and compete at this level with these teams,” Bangor catcher Derek Fournier said.
Fournier paced Bangor’s nine-hit attack with a double, two singles and three RBIs. Nick Cowperthwaite complemented that offense with six innings of four-hit, shutout pitching.
The righthander, who led Bangor’s first-year Junior Legion team to a state championship a week ago, yielded a double to Jake Hesselink to begin the game but struck out the next two batters he faced and settled down quickly. Only Hesselink advanced as far as third base against him.
“I was just trying to keep the ball low and outside and work the curveball in there and throw the changeup once in a while,” Cowperthwaite said. “I wanted to keep it away from them and keep it on the ground.”
Cowperthwaite totaled three strikeouts and one walk before he was removed after throwing 71 pitches, which makes him eligible under Senior League rules to pitch again Thursday on the final day of SLWS pool play.
“Give props to the pitcher, he kept us off balance and threw a good game,” Regina manager Todd Davis said. “We couldn’t square him up, and when we did we’d pop it up.
“Basically it comes down to our hitting,” he added. “I think Customs still has our bats at the border, and we’re going to look for them later on.”
Regina starter Spencer Davis was even more impressive than Cowperthwaite early in the contest, retiring the first eight batters he faced before Jake Ireland singled to center with two out in the bottom of the third.
Bangor scored an unearned run to take the lead in the fourth on back-to-back singles by Fournier and Cowperthwaite and a throwing error on a fielder’s choice grounder by Brian Peirce.
The hosts broke the game open with three runs in the fifth during their third trip around the batting order against Davis.
“The first couple of innings were kind of nerve-wracking,” Bangor manager Barrett Dionne said.
The Bangor team resumes pool play at 5 p.m. Monday against Asia-Pacific champion Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
“I think the guys were a little anxious at the plate, but I knew all along they eventually were going to time that guy up, get the bat on the ball and find the gaps. And that’s what we did.”
Ireland led off the Bangor fifth with an opposite-field single to right, then stole second and went to third on a one-out single by Dennis Farnham. A balk enabled Ireland to score, and Farnham soon came across the plate when Fournier blasted a first-pitch fastball to deep left field for an RBI double.
“It was an inside pitch and kind of high, too,” said Fournier, who also threw out two would-be base stealers. “My first two at-bats I was way out in front of the ball, so I just tried to stay back and let the bat go.”
Cowperthwaite capped off the rally with an RBI single to left.
Bangor added three two-out runs in the sixth, as Harrison Dieuveuil and Ireland drew one-out walks before Farnham hit an RBI single to center and Fournier followed with a two-run single to left-center.
Regina scored its runs in the top of the seventh, reaching Bangor reliever Tanner Goodine for three straight hits to open the inning and four hits overall, including an RBI single by Hesselink after an RBI fielder’s choice by Lucas Yanko.
Hesselink and Kirkland Chalus each had two hits for the Canadian champions.
Farnham, Cowperthwaite and Ireland backed up Fournier’s offense with two hits each, with Ireland reaching base in all three of his plate appearances from the No. 9 spot in the Bangor batting order.