BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor High School baseball team entered Wednesday’s Class A North quarterfinal not only riding a 16-game postseason winning streak good for four consecutive state championships, but the Rams had allowed only 22 runs during the run that began in 2014.
That’s 1.4 runs per game allowed amid the most pressure-packed of situations, a testament to pitching and defensive consistency. It’s also a lesson seemingly taken to heart by the current top-ranked team in the region based on its 5-2 victory over No. 8 Messalonskee of Oakland at Mansfield Stadium.
Junior right-hander Zach Cowperthwaite scattered seven hits while yielding just one earned run. And save for a two-out error in the top of the seventh that enabled Messalonskee to score its second run, a Bangor defense led by senior shortstop Zach Ireland’s seven assists prevented the Eagles from capitalizing on their opportunities.
“Obviously tonight’s performance with just the one error in the last inning, that’s solid defense right there,” said Bangor senior catcher Tyler Parke. “Not only were there the routine plays but there were also some difficult plays mixed in there, and one thing coach (Dave) Morris says all the time is that fun is doing difficult things right and we do a lot of difficult things right and consider that fun.”
The victory advances Bangor (16-1) to a home semifinal Saturday against the winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal between No. 4 Lewiston (12-4) and No. 5 Hampden Academy (11-5). Bangor edged Lewiston 5-4 on the road in its season opener on April 18 and twice shut out Hampden, 7-0 on May 16 and 10-0 on May 29.
Messalonskee, which limited Bangor to six hits and turned three double plays, ended its season at 8-9 after suffering its third loss of the spring to the reigning champs.
“I thought Messalonskee played a real good game,” Morris said. “Sometimes the first one is tough because you’ve had a nine-day layover and we’ve been in the gym the last two days, but we played a solid game defensively, Zach pitched great and we executed when we needed to.”
Cowperthwaite (6-1) struck out three batters and walked two during a 104-pitch performance that featured 76 strikes.
“I was comfortable out there,” he said. “I knew as long as I threw strikes my defense was going to make the plays and Zach (Ireland) and (second baseman) Zach Murray made some big plays.”
Bangor scored all the runs it needed during the bottom of the second. Parke’s two-out, two-run ground single to center field capped off a four-run rally against right-hander Tyler Noonan.
Cowperthwaite drew a leadoff walk and advanced on Murray’s bunt single, then a sacrifice by James Neel moved the runners to second and third with one out.
Nick Canarr was walked intentionally to load the bases before Jacob Munroe pulled a 1-2 pitch into left field to drive home the game’s first run. Charlie Budd then beat the throw to first base on a potential double-play grounder, with the fielder’s choice plating Murray.
Parke got ahead in the count 3-1 before driving his single through the middle to make it 4-0.
“I remember hitting it hard up the middle and thinking their shortstop might have a play on it so I just put my head down and ran,” said Parke, the leadoff batter. “I knew we were going to score at least one when I heard everyone hollering in the dugout.”
Bangor scored its final run in the fourth. Neel was hit by a pitch and sacrificed to second by Canarr, then Munroe blooped an opposite-field single down the right-field line to put runners at first and third. Neel scored on a wild pitch.
Messalonskee finally broke through against Cowperthwaite with a run on consecutive one-out singles by Lewis, Percy Carey and Carter Lambert in the top of the fifth to narrow its deficit to 5-1.
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