Jonah Baude and Gavin Young spent much of Saturday’s Class A North baseball semifinal between top-ranked Bangor and No. 5 Messalonskee of Oakland in familiar positions — rooting for their teammates from the dugout.
But just as an upset of those seedings was brewing, the two senior reserves got the chance to make a difference and made the most of their opportunities as the defending regional champion Rams rallied for a 6-5 victory at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
Baude, who pitched just 9 ⅔ innings during the regular season, threw three innings of two-hit relief to earn the victory and scored the tying run during Bangor’s two-run comeback in the bottom of the sixth inning after beating out an infield hit in his only at-bat.
“We’ve worked so hard this year to get to this point, and I knew I’d get a shot at some point,” Baude said. “I didn’t know it would be now, but I’m happy we won. Everyone played a helluva game.”
Young, who had eight at-bats this spring coming into the game, followed up Luke Missbrenner’s one-out double to left-center field and a wild pitch that allowed Baude to score and Missbrenner to reach third base with a two-strike sacrifice fly to right field to plate the winning run. Bangor secured its ninth consecutive victory and improved its record to 17-1.
“We’ve been preaching all year long that you never know when you’re going to get your opportunity,” Bangor coach Dave Morris said. “It just goes to show a lot of young kids that when you hustle and work hard, a lot of good things can happen.”
Pivotal players: Messalonskee had mounted its own rally midway through the game, scoring a single run in the top of the third, two runs in the fourth and another run in the fifth to turn a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 lead on Brady Bumford’s sacrifice fly off Baude that drove home pinch-runner Bjorn Brickett with the go-ahead run.
But Baude, Bangor’s third pitcher of the game, held the Eagles scoreless the rest of the way and ended the contest with back-to-back strikeouts.
“I felt good,” he said. “I felt like I was commanding well, I was throwing the best I’ve thrown all year. My curveball was working, my fastball was hitting spots.”
Baude’s final inning on the mound came after a productive plate appearance in the bottom of the sixth, as he hit a one-out grounder wide of first base and then beat Messalonskee pitcher Jacob Love to the first-base bag after Love took the throw from Eagles’ first baseman Jacob Thomas.
Baude initially was ruled out, but Bangor appealed the ruling and after a meeting of the umpires he was ruled safe – ending a streak of 11 straight batters retired by Love.
“I knew [Love] was going to give me something to hit and I was just ready for it and I beat it out,” Baude said.
Missbrenner smashed an 0-2 pitch deep to left-center for a double that advanced Baude to third, bringing up Young as a pinch-hitter.
Love threw a wild pitch on a 1-1 offering that enabled Baude to score to make it 5-5, with Missbrenner advancing to third.
Young worked the count full, then drove an outside pitch to the opposite field, deep enough so Messalonskee right fielder Ty Bernier didn’t have a play at the plate as Missbrenner scored what turned out to be the winning run.
“I wasn’t surprised I got the chance,” Young said. “We all trust in each other, we all have each other’s backs. When I got in there, at first there were runners on first and second so I was just trying to get a base hit. Then there was a [wild pitch] and I changed up the mentality to just put the ball in play and that’s what I ended up doing.”
Missbrenner had two of Bangor’s seven hits in the game, with a bunt single and a run scored during a three-run rally by the Rams in the bottom of the second. Senior shortstop Keegan Cyr added a two-out, two-run single to cap off the uprising that gave Bangor a 4-1 lead, while leadoff batter Colton Cyr led off the bottom of the first inning with a triple and scored the Rams’ first run on a two-out single by Ryan Howard.
Love, who allowed three earned runs while striking out five batters and walking two – one intentionally – during his complete-game pitching performance, also sparked the Messalonskee offense with two singles and a run scored. Mitchell Grant added an RBI double and a bases-loaded walk for the Eagles while leadoff batter Garrett Card singled, walked three times and scored twice.
What’s next: Bangor will attempt to win its seventh regional championship in the last eight years of Maine high school baseball — the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19 — when it plays No. 7 Edward Little of Auburn in Tuesday’s 5 p.m. title game at Morton Field in Augusta. EL (11-8) edged No. 3 Mount Ararat of Topsham 4-3 in Saturday’s other semifinal.
Messalonskee ends its season at 11-8.