Even as the team’s batting average rose to a .340 near the end of the regular season, members of the Bangor baseball team believed their postseason fate would ultimately depend on pitching and defense.
So far, so good.
Coach Dave Morris’ club scraped out a lone run in Tuesday’s second inning and senior left-hander Colton Trisch and a timely Bangor defense ensured the run stood as the senior Rams beat Auburn’s Edward Little 1-0 the Class A North championship game at Morton Field in Augusta.
The win continued a remarkable run for Bangor, who won their seventh regional title in the past nine years – and baseball was not played in 2020 due to COVID-19.
The 18-1 Rams will now be looking to win their sixth state championship in that span – and for the first time since 2018 – when they return to Augusta for the 2pm game against Thornton Academy of Saco on Saturday.
“We’ve talked all year about how pitching and defense are going to win championships,” Morris said. “I thought Colton dominated the game and when he got tired in the last few innings he trusted his defense.”
Trisch scored just two hits while hitting nine, walking three and hitting a hitter during a 106-pitch full-game performance that improved his record to 9-0 that spring.
“The command was definitely there, my off-speed was great, and when I was putting fastballs in and hitters were hitting them, my defense was making plays,” Trisch said. “It was fantastic.”
Trisch had to be so effective, because while Edward Little’s sophomore, Drew Smith struggled with his control of the first two innings, he calmed down later in the game with some dominant pitches. Bangor failed to get 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 pulled a leadoff walk from Smith at the end of the second inning and then advanced to third base on two wild pitches from Edward Little’s right-hander.
Senior right fielder Max Clark did the rest by blasting a 3-2 pitch into flat midfield for a single that delivered missfire for the game’s only run.
“Good base running by Luke got the infield in and luckily the infield was in because it was quite a fluke,” Clark said of his second game-winning goal in the Rams’ last four games. “I was able to fend off a few pitches and I don’t know if I had the run on it, but I had the club on it and I was able to move it in.”
Key players: Bangor’s defense made two mistakes early in the contest, but a crucial defensive play by second baseman Yates Emerson and senior first baseman Luke Missbrenner helped retain the win.
Edward Little (11-9) had runners in first and third with two outs at the top of the sixth when Brody Keefe hit an opposite field grounder who appeared to have a chance to reach outfield.
Emerson, who had touched the ball only once defensively up to that point in the game, reached to the left and then slid to catch the ball. He wobbled briefly but recovered in time to make a low throw to first base, which was scooped out by Missbrenner for the final.
“I knew the guy wasn’t the fastest and was often late on the ball, so I knew he was going to go into the field with that, so I took a few steps in that direction,” Emerson said. “Then when he hit it I had to open a pop-up chute to get him out and I shook it but still had time to get him. Luke made a good choice and somehow saved me.”
Missbrenner’s scoop also stopped the Red Eddies from having their best-scoring opportunity.
“[Yates] got on it and lost his footing but he stuck with it,” Morris said. “It’s great proof for a young kid that they’re not panicking. He didn’t panic. He made the game and I really thought it was the game of the game.
Big Takeaway: Bangor reached the regional finals averaging 8.0 runs per competition in his earlier postseason wins over Skowhegan (10-0) and Messalonskee of Oakland (6-5). But when Edward limited Little Bangor’s offense to two singles each from Trisch and Clark, pitching and defense rose to the occasion.
It was Trisch’s second win over Edward Little this spring when he hit a sixth-inning no-hitter in Bangor’s 7-2 opener win over the Red Eddies on April 20.
“Getting into the game and with the flow of the game. I said to myself we only need one [run]said Bangor senior shortstop Keegan Cyr. “I just felt like they weren’t going to meet him. They didn’t beat him earlier this year and they didn’t beat him today.”