HAMPDEN, Maine — This comeback may not have been quite as dramatic as others the Hampden Academy baseball team has pulled off this spring, but the Broncos’ 5-4 victory over Bangor at Bordick Park on Wednesday was just as satisfying.
Junior right-handers Jackson Thayer and Gavin Partridge combined to pitch a five-hitter and senior catcher Evan Thomas singled home Thayer with the winning run in the bottom of the fifth inning as coach McLean Poulin’s club secured its eighth consecutive victory since a season-opening loss at undefeated Oxford Hills of South Paris on April 19.
The win was Hampden’s third come-from-behind effort in its last four contests, with the 8-1 Broncos rallying from 3-0 seventh-inning deficits to defeat Messalonskee of Oakland 7-3 and Brewer 5-3 in back-to-back games May 8 and 9.
“We’ve been battling super hard all year,” said Partridge, the Broncos’ starting shortstop, who came on in relief of Thayer to pitch a scoreless seventh inning for his second save of the season.
Thayer did not allow an earned run during his six innings on the mound. He survived a first-inning threat unscathed despite issuing three walks and later minimized the damage when the Rams capitalized on three Hampden errors to score four unearned runs in the top of the third to take a 4-3 lead.
“Getting out of that first inning without giving up a run was a big confidence boost for Jackson,” Poulin said. “I told him he just needed to trust his stuff, attack the zone and let them hit it because we can’t defend walks. He knows that, and once he got through inning that he got going.”
Thayer walked only one more batter over his final five innings and finished with eight strikeouts.
Bangor’s tough luck continued as the five-time defending Class A state champions stranded eight baserunners while enduring their fifth loss this spring by two runs or less.
“We’re either one hit away or one pitch away,” said Rams coach Dave Morris, whose team fell to 4-8 with four regular-season games left. “We’re really battling, but it’s tough when you’ve got a lot of guys who have been on teams when you’re winning these close games.
“Hampden has a very good club. They took advantage of some mistakes and we just needed that one more hit in certain situations.”
Hampden took its first lead immediately after Thayer escaped a bases-loaded, two-out Bangor threat in the top of the first with an inning-ending strikeout.
Sam Economy opened the bottom of the inning with an opposite-field single to right. The Hampden center fielder stole second and scored the game’s first run on back-to-back groundouts to second base from Derek Gendreau and Partridge.
A two-out single by No. 9 batter Mychael Beaulieu drove home Rece Poulin and Thomas in the bottom of the second to extend Hampden’s lead to 3-0. Bangor then capitalized on three Hampden errors and a two-run single by freshman shortstop Keegan Cyr and a run-producing groundout by junior pitcher Carson Prouty to take a 4-3 edge in the top of the third.
Thomas was hit by a Prouty pitch to open the Hampden fourth, then stole second and reached third on a wild pitch before scoring on Gendreau’s two-out single to right to forge a 4-4 tie.
Thayer drilled a one-out double to the right-center-field gap in the bottom of the fifth, and scored two pitches later when Thomas singled sharply to left field to deliver what turned out to be the game-winning RBI.
“They just have that no-quit attitude no matter what the situation is,” coach Poulin said of his team’s propensity for comebacks. “They’re not going to stop until they’re told they have to, they fight to the end.”