AUGUSTA — Long faces eventually will give way to long-term memories.
The Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School baseball team will realize it was part of a regular-season epic Saturday morning and afternoon.
As for their opinion of Cony’s 7-6, 12-inning victory at Morton Field in the immediate aftermath, well, you guessed it. None too enamored.
“Great game, Wish it went the other way, but it was a real good game,” said Oxford Hills coach Shane Slicer. “We fought. They came back and tied it. We took the lead. They came back and put us against the wall at the end. Damn good game.”
That’s the condensed version. Then again, how else do you summarize a 3-hour, 24-minute bout of mutual anxiety and indigestion that featured 415 pitches and myriad momentum swings?
Oxford Hills led 3-0 in the third, 5-3 in the ninth and 6-5 after Kyle Farrar’s single that plated Erik Henderson with an unearned run to cap a two-out rally in the top of the 12th.
Again Cony returned the favor, loading the bases against reliever Cody Hadley with a line drive, an infield single and a sacrifice bunt attempt that saw the Vikings fail to cover first.
Charlie Partridge, who previously tied the game with a fifth-inning home run, greeted Matt Verrier with a four-pitch walk to force home the tying run. Jason Burns then sharply lined a 1-0 pitch to right field to apply the finishing touches.
The Rams won without their coach, Lewiston native Don Plourde, who left in the fourth inning to attend a graduation ceremony at which he received his Master’s degree. Athletic director Paul Vachon filled in.
“You know they’re going to be worth a lot of Heals and they’re going to be in contention with us in the (KVAC) South,” Burns said. “A lot of people came through in the clutch.”
Pitchers, especially. Clutch was pretty much a continuous state of being after Partridge’s blast rescued the Rams (9-1) from their early deficit.
Cony stranded 10 men on base from the sixth through 11th innings, thanks to Hadley’s five-plus innings of brilliant relief behind Erik Henderson.
Ryan Minoty rallied from a rocky start to strike out 11 for Cony. Jake Beland froze Vikings in scoring position to end the ninth, 10th and 12th.
“Definitely we’re a veteran ball club, so we’ve been in these situations before, both this year and in Legion last year,” Cony’s Jake Lachance said after scoring the winning run. “Not at any point did we think we couldn’t win the game.”
Colin McKee’s single from the No. 9 slot and Luke Duncklee’s troublesome bunt sandwiched Lachance’s leg-out of a slow roller to third, setting the stage for Partridge and Burns.
Burns banged out three of Cony’s 14 hits. Lachance, Duncklee, Partridge and Nick Lucas added two each.
“There’s really no excuse (for not covering the bunt), but we didn’t do it and then we had to fight back from it. It’s not our regular infield at that point,” said Slicer. “That’s a tough lineup to get through with one guy over and over and over.”
Verrier was 2-for-3 with three RBIs for Oxford Hills (7-2), including a two-run double in the ninth.
Henderson reached on a throwing error in the 12th, one at-bat after Cony turned a 5-4-3 double play. D.J. Croy’s infield single kept it alive for Farrar, who stroked his second hit of the day to center field for another Vikings lead.
“You have Matty Verrier and Cody Hadley over there who can swing big sticks,” Lachance said. “Our pitchers gutted it out. Ryan Minoty wasn’t feeling very well today, but he got his bearings under him and Jake picked him up.”
Beland struck out five and allowed only three hits prior to Oxford Hills’ uprising in the final frame.
Nate Dubois drew a leadoff walk and made it 1-0 on Verrier’s single in the first.
A double by Andrew Keniston (3-for-5, two runs scored), three consecutive walks and a successful squeeze bunt by Ethan Davidson put Minoty in a 3-0 third-inning hole and in danger of an early exit. The senior right-hander escaped, however, with back-to-back strikeouts of Henderson and Brandon Campbell.
“I like the way we handled Minoty,” Slicer said. “He shut us down in parts of the lineup, but even those innings he struck out the side or whatever, we made him pitch.”
Cony got one back when Burns scored on a wild pitch in the fourth. An inning later, Partridge followed a walk to Duncklee with a 375-foot rocket into a swirling wind.
Both teams plucked a defensive gem in the seventh. Lachance turned an unassisted double play after snagging a pop-up by Verrier at first. For Oxford Hills, first baseman Davidson dug out a hard, low throw for the third out, marooning a Cony runner at third and extending the game.