BANGOR, Maine — The 6-4-3 double play is a much more routine part of pro baseball than it is in the high school ranks.

But in the high school setting it’s much more likely to be a game changer — as it was Thursday when fourth-ranked Bangor used just such a defensive stand as the catalyst for a come-from-behind 4-2 Eastern A quarterfinal victory over No. 5 Mount Ararat of Topsham at Mansfield Stadium.

Already leading 2-1, Mount Ararat loaded the bases with one out in the top of the fifth, a threat that prompted Bangor coach Jeff Fahey to replace starting pitcher Jordan Clarke with senior righthander Darren Casey-Covell.

“Bases loaded is probably a pitcher’s worst nightmare,” said Casey-Covell. “I was just coming in trying to throw strikes, keep it low and get a ground ball. That’s all I was hoping for, really.”

Fahey also opted to leave shortstop Cody McInnis and second baseman Chad Kelley at double-play depth rather than bring his entire infield in to cut off a run at the plate, and the move worked to perfection as Casey-Covell got Matt Bickford to ground to McInnis to start a 6-4-3 double play that forever changed the game’s mo-mentum.

“Cody and I have been able to turn the double play all year whenever we get a chance,” said Kelley, “so Coach is pretty confident that if we get a ground ball we’ll be able to turn it. It was a hard ground ball, and I thought it may hit a lip [where the grass meets the infield dirt], but it stayed down. Cody gave me the perfect feed and I just turned it.”

Bangor tied the game in the bottom of the inning as Nate Lewis blasted a two-out triple to center and scored when Clarke singled up the middle.

The Rams took their first lead in the sixth. Mack Susi singled and Kelley walked before Lonnie Hackett hit an RBI double to left-center.

“I was trying to bunt for most of the at-bat, but that didn’t go too well so luckily it worked out OK,” said Hackett. “It was a fastball, pretty high, but I was so pumped up that I was swinging at pretty much anything.”

Kelley reached third on the double and scored an insurance run on a wild pitch by Mount Ararat reliever Tom Dunn.

Casey-Covell then retired the side in order in the seventh, inducing three groundouts — the last two to McInnis, who fielded seven grounders flawlessly during the game to produce eight outs.

“At the beginning of the season I wasn’t playing with confidence,” said McInnis, a junior, “but coach stayed with me and luckily I’m making the plays now. I’m just trying to help us win.”

Bangor (13-3) will play in a semifinal Saturday at No. 1 Messalonskee of Oakland, which defeated No. 8 Oxford Hills of South Paris 13-3 on Thursday. Bangor and Messalonskee split two regular-season games, with the Rams also winning a 12-10 decision last Friday during the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference tourna-ment.

Mount Ararat, which had won eight straight since losing to Bangor 3-2 on May 11, ends its season at 10-7.

The Eagles averaged 12.3 runs per game during that streak, and that seemingly carried over into postseason play when the game’s first three batters staked coach Craig Rogers’ club to a 2-0 lead.

Tim Bickford singled to right, stole second and scored on Scott Rogers’ ground single off Kelley’s glove. Anthony Farrell then lined an RBI triple to center to make it 2-0, but Clarke then stranded Farrell at third with two strikeouts and a groundout.

“I was just trying to throw strikes and hoping my defense would play behind me, and they did,” said Clarke. “I hit my spots once I settled in, and it worked out.”

Bangor reached Farrell for its first run with two out in the fourth. Dylan Morris singled and Susi was hit by a pitch, then a wild pitch advanced the runners before Kelley hit an infield single to shortstop that allowed pinch-runner Dan Taft to score.


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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...