Even as the team’s batting average crept up toward .340 late in the regular season, members of the Bangor baseball team believed their postseason fate ultimately would hinge on pitching and defense.
So far, so good.
Coach Dave Morris’ club scratched out a single run in the second inning Tuesday and senior left-hander Colton Trisch and some timely Bangor defense made the run stand up as the top-ranked Rams edged No. 7 Edward Little of Auburn 1-0 in the Class A North championship game played at Morton Field in Augusta.
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The victory continued a remarkable run for Bangor, which captured its seventh regional title in the last nine years — and baseball wasn’t played in 2020 due to COVID-19.
The 18-1 Rams now will try to capture their sixth state championship during that span — and first since 2018 — when they return to Augusta on Saturday to play Thornton Academy of Saco in a 2 p.m. start.
“We’ve been talking all year long about how pitching and defense are going to win championships,” Morris said. “I thought Colton had command of the game, and when he got tired the last couple of innings he trusted his defense.”
Trisch yielded just two hits while striking out nine, walking three and hitting a batter during a 106-pitch complete-game performance that improved his record this spring to 9-0.
“The command was definitely there, my off-speed was awesome, and when I put fastballs in and hitters hit it, my defense made plays,” Trisch said. “It was awesome.”
Trisch needed to be that effective because while Edward Little sophomore Drew Smith struggled with his control over the first two innings, he settled down with some dominant pitching of his own later in the game. Bangor did not advance a runner past second base after the second inning.
Smith finished with a four-hitter with seven strikeouts, four walks and two hit batters while throwing 99 pitches over six innings.
Bangor’s Luke Missbrenner drew a leadoff walk off Smith in the bottom of the second inning, then advanced to third base on a pair of wild pitches by the Edward Little righthander.
Senior right fielder Max Clark did the rest, blooping a 3-2 pitch into shallow center field for a single that delivered Missbrenner for the game’s only run.
“Good baserunning by Luke brought the infield in, and thankfully the infield was in because it was a pretty fluke hit,” said Clark of his second game-winning hit in the Rams’ last four games. “I was able to fight off a few pitches, and I don’t know if I got the barrel on it but I got the bat on it and was able to move him in.”
Pivotal players: Bangor’s defense committed two errors early in the contest, but a key defensive play by sophomore second baseman Yates Emerson and senior first baseman Luke Missbrenner helped preserve the victory.
Edward Little (11-9) had runners on first and third with two outs in the top of the sixth when Brody Keefe hit an opposite-field grounder that looked to have a chance to reach the outfield.
Emerson, who had touched the ball defensively just once to that point of the game, ranged to his left and then slid to field the ball. He bobbled it briefly, but recovered in time to make a low throw to first base that was scooped up by Missbrenner for the final out.
“I knew that the guy wasn’t the fastest and he was late on the ball a lot, so I knew he was going to go opposite field with it so I took a couple of steps that way,” Emerson said. “Then when he hit it, I had to pop-up slide to get him out and I bobbled it but still had time to get him. Luke made a good pick and kind of saved me.”
Missbrenner’s scoop also stymied the Red Eddies’ best chance to score.
“[Yates] came up with it and lost the grip but he stuck with it,” Morris said. “It’s a great testament to a young kid for not panicking. He didn’t panic. He made the play and I really thought it was the play of the game.”
Big takeaway: Bangor entered the regional final averaging 8.0 runs per contest in its earlier postseason victories over Skowhegan (10-0) and Messalonskee of Oakland (6-5). But when Edward Little limited Bangor’s offense to two singles each from Trisch and Clark, the pitching and defense rose to the occasion.
For Trisch, it was his second victory over Edward Little this spring, as he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of Bangor’s season-opening 7-2 victory over the Red Eddies on April 20.
“Coming into the game and with the flow of the game. I said to myself all we need is one [run],” Bangor senior shortstop Keegan Cyr said. “I just had that feeling that they weren’t going to hit him. They didn’t hit him at the beginning of the year and they didn’t hit him today.”