BANGOR, Maine — The Messalonskee of Oakland and Bangor High School baseball teams have taken turns as the state’s best over the last three years.
The two rivals took turns at similar dominance within the course of the same game Tuesday.
But while Bangor mounted a late rally that brought the winning run to the plate, Messalonskee built an early lead and held on for an 8-6 victory in their Class A showdown at Mansfield Stadium.
“That’s a very good team,” said Bangor coach Jeff Fahey, whose club ended Messalonskee’s two-year reign as Eastern Maine champion (including the 2012 state crown) with a 6-3 win in last spring’s regional final en route to its first state championship since 2006.
“They stroke the ball. Their 14 hits were a lot louder than our eight. We’re proud of the kids that they didn’t quit, but we made some mental mistakes that are uncharacteristic of us. We need to get better.”
Messalonskee (6-0) had outscored its first five opponents by a combined 42-1, and that offensive might was on display from the outset of its lone regular-season meeting against Bangor as the Eagles built a 3-0 first-inning lead with a four-hit rally that included the first of Zach Mathieu’s four hits in the game, an RBI triple to right field.
“I went up there wanting to swing,” said Mathieu. “I had a tough game [Monday] and just wanted to swing and see how things happened, and they went my way.”
Messalonskee seemingly broke the game open for senior righthander Nick Mayo in the fourth, sending 11 batters to the plate and scoring its final five runs on six hits — including Mathieu’s second triple of the contest, which drove home Trevor Gettig and Jared Cunningham.
“Offensively that’s the best we’ve been all year against pretty good pitching,” said Messalonskee coach Pete McLaughlin.
But the 6-foot-8 Mayo, who sat out the 2014 baseball season to focus on basketball and ultimately landed a full scholarship to play beginning next fall at Division I Eastern Kentucky, left the mound after yielding three unearned runs in the bottom of the fifth, two on an RBI single by Andrew Hillier.
Mayo struck out four batters, walked three and hit a batter while throwing 78 pitches — 49 for strikes — in just his second start since his sophomore season.
“I felt pretty good,” said Mayo, who worked four scoreless innings in his first start this spring. “I knew I had a good defense behind me, so if I threw strikes and they put the ball in play my defense would make great plays.”
But Bangor (5-2) kept coming against reliever Jake Dexter, scoring three more runs — the first earned runs allowed by Messalonskee this year — in the bottom of the sixth.
A leadoff single by Ryan Brookings started the uprising, and RBI singles by Jordan Derrah and Trevor DeLaite soon pulled Bangor within 8-5 before a diving play by Messalonskee second baseman Ben Frazee produced a force-out of DeLaite at second base on an RBI fielder’s choice grounder by Ben Crichton.
Hillier then singled before Dexter secured the final out of the inning.
Bangor, buoyed by 3⅓ innings of shutout relief by righthander Jesse Colford, threatened to complete its comeback in the bottom of the seventh, putting runners on first and second with one out on a single by Brian Peirce and a walk to Johnny Cote.
Dexter fell behind Kyle Stevenson by a 3-0 count before coming all the way back for the strikeout, then got Derrah to hit a fielder’s choice groundout to third base to end the game.
“As bad as the end result was, we can take some positives from it,” said Fahey. “Not only did we not quit, we scored six runs late, and we hit the ball hard finally a few times.”