BANGOR, Maine — There’s a calmness within the Bangor High School baseball program that only comes through sustained success, even as the players wearing the uniforms change from year to year.
The biggest test to date this season for the four-time defending Class A state champions epitomized that coolness under pressure on Thursday. Junior right-hander Zach Cowperthwaite pitched a five-hitter and the Rams scored a pair of two-out runs to help knock off previously undefeated Edward Little of Auburn 3-1 in a late-season showdown at Mansfield Stadium.
Both teams are now 12-1.
“Coming into this game we knew they’d be a playoff team and that this would be a big game,” Cowperthwaite said. “A lot of us have played in big games, though, so we played like it was any other game and we did well.”
Cowperthwaite was particularly efficient while winning his pitcher’s duel with Edward Little ace Grant Hartley. He struck out five batters — including the final two outs of the game — and walked no one during a 91-pitch performance.
“Coming into the game I knew I could throw strikes and let them hit the ball and my defense would make the plays,” said Cowperthwaite, now 4-1. “I threw a lot of fastballs, but every once in awhile I threw the curveball and I ended up getting two strikeouts to end the game on it, so the curveball worked well but the fastball was my pitch today.”
Cowperthwaite was at his best when Edward Little threatened. The Red Eddies advanced four runners into scoring position but just one crossed the plate — that after Bangor had built a 3-0 lead.
“When we got guys in scoring position, especially with two outs, one of the keys to the game was he made his pitches and they made plays,” said EL coach Dave Jordan. “We’ve been able to get two-out hits and drive those runs in this year, but today we weren’t able to do that.
“They were able to make the plays both offensively and defensively with two outs and runners in scoring position.”
Bangor displayed its two-out offensive prowess to score the game’s first run in the bottom of the third inning. Noah Missbrenner drew a two-out walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored when Cowperthwaite lined an RBI single to right-center.
Bangor extended its lead in the fifth as Charlie Budd hit a leadoff single to left-center, was sacrificed to second by Tyler Parke and scored on Zach Ireland’s opposite-field single.
“(Hartley) threw me an outside fastball and I just roped it, a line drive to left-center,” said Ireland, also a standout defensively for Bangor at shortstop, “but Charlie coming up and getting on to start that inning was huge.”
Missbrenner then singled off the glove of EL second baseman Nick Hathaway and, after Cowperthwaite flied out to deep left, Zach Murray pulled a two-out RBI single down the left-field line to score Ireland from second base and make it 3-0.
Edward Little ended Bangor’s bid at a third straight shutout victory — the Rams defeated Mt. Blue of Farmington 4-0 on Monday and Hampden Academy 7-0 on Wednesday — in the top of the sixth.
Jake Arel led off with a single to the shortstop hole, then advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third when Hartley grounded out to first base.
Cowperthwaite retired Bell on a running catch by Budd in shallow center field, but Ben Cassidy grounded the next pitch sharply into center field for an RBI single, his third hit of the game.
Cowperthwaite retired the side in order in the seventh, using his curveball to induce the last two outs on called third strikes as the Rams moved ahead of EL and into first place in the Class A North Heal Point ratings.
“We approach every game with the same intensity and the same confidence,” said Ireland. “Being in first place and being able to play the first two playoff games at home would be nice but we don’t like to look ahead too much.
“We just like to stay right in the moment and play every inning, every pitch and every out.”