BANGOR – “One more makes four.”
After three weeks of preseason practices and scrimmages, 16 regular season games, and three playoff games, the official slogan for the 1997 Bangor Rams baseball team has become a literal truth.
Ace pitcher Darren Stover allowed seven hits and four runs in 5 2/3 innings, but that was good enough as his Rams knocked off Hampden Academy 8-4 in the Eastern Maine Class A final at Mansfield Stadium on a warm, sunny Wednesday afternoon.
Bangor will take on West champ Sanford, a 3-0 winner over OxSouth Paris Wednesday, for the state championship at Mansfield at 3:45 p.m. Saturday.
The win gives Bangor its fourth straight Eastern crown and puts the 18-1 Rams one win away from four straight state titles. The win was also Stover’s 17th straight since he lost his first-ever varsity start, as a junior last season.
“I just can’t say enough because he doesn’t put himself in trouble, he doesn’t walk many people and he keeps the ball down,” said Bangor coach Bob Kelley. “We don’t need a guy out there trying to strike everybody out.”
Good thing. Stover, who threw a no-hitter earlier this season, notched just one strikeout, but also issued only one walk.
Thanks to early defensive miscues by Hampden, the Rams kept the pressure off Stover. Bangor scored at least one run each inning and half of its runs were unearned.
“If you make a mistake, they’ll make you pay for it,” said Hampden coach Jack Merrithew. “We made five of them and the score reflects it.”
Two of them came in the first. Bangor’s T.J. True led off with a walk and stole second – the first of seven Ram steals. Broncos catcher Derek Dubois’s throw to first on Mike Wilcox’s bunt was wide, putting runners at the corners.
Tommy Waterman walked to load the bases and Keith Dorr hit a grounder to third, but the throw home was wide and True scored. A strikeout later, Stover scored Wilcox on a sacrifice fly to left.
The Rams added another run in the second – again without a hit. Chris Shea drew a one-out walk and scored on a two-base throwing error on a ground ball to third.
Bangor made it 5-0 in the third with three steals and three hits. Stover (3-for-3, three RBIs) and Pat Estey each hit RBI singles.
Hampden finally scored in the fourth on Chris Knickerbocker’s leadoff double, back-to-back singles by Rob King and Mike McInnis, and Matt Gilbert’s two-out RBI single. The Broncos missed a chance to plate another run when King tried to steal second with no outs and was thrown out.
With the score 6-2 in the fifth, the Rams capitalized on another Bronco mistake. Stover hit a leadoff single, was sacrificed to second, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a fielding error.
“They never really did much to us,” said Merrithew. “They never really got very far ahead of us. We just couldn’t battle back. We just got very far ahead of us. We just couldn’t battle back. We just couldn’t stop the errors.”
Hampden scratched back for two runs in the sixth. After issuing his lone walk to Knickerbocker, Stover sandwiched two outs around McInnis’s single to shallow right, but gave up a run on the groundout.
Two straight singles to right by Gilbert and Littlefield chased Stover, but catcher Keith Dorr took the mound and ended the threat.
“I felt better at the beginning than I did at the end,” said Stover. “Usually I finish strong, but today the heat kind of got to me and I got a little tired, and started getting the ball up in the zone.”
Dorr, who will get the start on the mound Saturday, threw the final 1 1/3 innings of hitless relief for his second save of the season.
“We didn’t pitch Keith a lot early… and tried to save him for the last third of the season,” said Kelley. “He’s such a tough competitor that we, I think in the back of our minds, thought he would be a number two [starter].”
The win was Bangor’s fourth in four games against the No. 7 Broncos, who finish the season 12-7.
“When we played them in Hampden, the same scenario played out. We outhit them and they won the game,” said Merrithew.
“This is a typical game for us,” said Kelley. “We put our best defensive team out there first, and then scratch for our runs.”
Rams 8, Broncos 4
Hampden Academy (12-7) Bangor (18-1)
Name ab r h bi Name ab r h bi
Knckrbckr,ss 3 2 1 0 True, cf 3 1 0 0
King, lf 3 0 1 0 Wilcox, 2b 4 2 1 0
McInnis, 2b 3 2 2 0 Waterman, ss 1 1 0 0
Cmpbell,p-1b 3 0 0 1 Dorr, c-p 3 1 1 1
Gilbert, 1b-p 3 0 2 2 Karam, dh 4 0 0 0
Littlefield,3b 3 0 1 0 Civiello, 1b 0 0 0 0
Economy, dh 3 0 0 0 Nill, c 0 0 0 0
Groshon, rf 0 0 0 0 Stover, p-1b 3 1 3 3
Dubois, c 3 0 0 0 a-LeBlanc 0 0 0 0
Bristol, cf 2 0 0 0 Soucie, rf 3 1 0 0
Estey, lf 3 0 1 1
Shea, 3b 1 1 0 0
Totals 26 4 7 3 Totals 25 8 6 5
a-ran for Stover in third inning
Hampden 000 202 0 – 4
Bangor 212 111 x – 8
E – King, Littlefield 3, Dubois; Stover 2B – Knickerbocker; Wilcox LOB – Hampden 4; Bangor 8 SB – McInnis 2, Knickerbocker; True, Wilcox, Dorr, LeBlanc, Soucie, Waterman 2
S – Soucie
SF – Stover, Dorr
PITCHER IP H R ER BB SO
Campbell (L,4-3) 5 5 8 4 5 4
Gilbert 1 1 0 0 0 0
Stover (W,9-0) 5 2/3 7 4 4 1 1
Dorr (S,2) 1 1/3 0 0 0 1 0
HBP – Shea by Campbell WP – Campbell PB – King TIME – 1:55 ATTENDANCE – 700 (est.)