PARIS, Maine — The Oxford Hills Vikings’ efforts to put pressure on Bangor’s defense usually bore fruit in Saturday’s showdown between two of the top KVAC baseball teams.
Bangor tried to do the same against Oxford Hills’ defense, and time after time, the Vikings made clear that they would have none of it.
Bangor allowed just three hits but made three errors, two of them key mistakes. Oxford Hills not only played the field cleanly, it was spectacular at times, and picked up a 5-2 win at Tim Bryant Field.
The Vikings (12-2) turned two 6-4-3 double plays, made two sparkling infield stops to rob Rams of potential hits and at least one run, and threw a runner out at the plate to kill a late rally.
“I’m pretty proud of them,” Oxford Hills coach Shane Slicer said. “With the lack of (defensive) reps we’ve had because of weather, that’s the impressive thing.”
Even with those defensive gems, the Rams (12-3) still had ample opportunities to produce against Vikings sophomore starter Colton Carson with 13 base runners, but they left eight.
“We had opportunities to score some runs early, but give credit to their pitcher,” Bangor coach Dave Morris said. “He’s a young guy. He threw strikes and got some calls and they had some sac flies that plated some guys.”
The opening for the first of three successful sacrifice flies by the Vikings came courtesy of an errant throw to first by Bangor senior starting pitcher Noah Tappan on Brayden Bean’s sacrifice bunt. The overthrow allowed Troy Johnson to take third, and he scored the game’s first run on Emery Chickering’s fly ball to left in the second inning.
Another bunt in the fourth, this one by Chickering, resulted in another high throw, this time to third. The third baseman caught it but came down on the bag after Johnson slid in safely.
Johnson eventually scored on a balk by Tappan. Morris disputed the call, even asking home plate umpire Barry Fuller if he could play the game under protest, which is not allowed by the Maine Principals’ Association.
“He said both feet, the stride foot, has to have contact with the rubber (at the start of the pitcher’s delivery from the wind-up),” Morris said. “In 36 years of coaching, I’ve never heard of that and never had it called against us. Whether it is or isn’t (a balk), to me it was just the timing of the play. We had played four innings and we had pitched from the wind-up before and never said a word. It was a big play in that moment, but it didn’t have any reflection on the game.”
The balk also moved Bean to third, and he scored on Jonny Pruett’s sacrifice fly to left for a 3-0 lead.
The Rams left two runners in each of the first three innings as Carson (six innings, four hits, four strikeouts, six walks, two hit batters) searched for command of his curve ball. But the tougher the spot, the tougher he got, and he escaped the first with a strikeout and the second with a double play.
The Vikings’ corner infielders came up big in the third. With runners at second and third and one out, first baseman Ashton Kennison dove to his right to stop a sharp Zach Murray grounder, checked the runner at third and stepped on first for the second out.
The next batter, Gary Farnham, hit another hard grounder that appeared ticketed for left field before third baseman Chickering dove to his left, got up and threw across to nab Farnham and end the threat.
Bangor finally broke through with a run in the fifth after a leadoff walk to Peter Kemble, a wild pitch that allowed Kemble to go from first to third, and a sacrifice fly to center by Peter Fournier.
But Oxford Hills answered with two in the bottom of the frame to make it 5-1. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out. Bangor reliever Nick Canarr walked Bean to plate a run. Chickering followed with his second sacrifice fly.
The Rams finally got the hit two-out hit they were looking for in the sixth when, with runners at first and second, Kemble ripped a double to the gap in right-center.
As Zach Ireland scored from second, Pruett chased the ball down and threw a strike to Bean in shallow right. The second baseman fired his relay on one hop to the plate, where catcher Wyatt Williamson was waiting to tag out a sliding George Payne for the final out.
Jackson Crane relieved Carson to start the seventh and hit a batter after a strikeout. The Vikings ended it by turning their second double play.
Saturday’s win and a 2-1 win over Edward Little last week helped vault Vikings into the top spot in the Class A North Heal Points, 0.125 of a point ahead of the Rams.