(L-R) Bangor High School (16) Karl Sund, (10) Noah Tappan (23) Nick Cowperthwaite and (22) Derek Fournier celebrate with the trophy after defeating Falmouth High School for the class A State Championship, Saturday at Fred Morton Field in Augusta. Photo by Terry Farren
AUGUSTA — Derek Fournier’s pop single to center field in the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday lifted Bangor to a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over Falmouth in the Class A baseball state final at Morton Field.
But before the Rams could walk off, first they had to pile up.
And so it was, a spontaneous meeting to the right of first base that celebrated not only the victory of the moment but the continuation of a dynasty that now numbers four consecutive championships.
“It’s easily the best way to finish,” said Fournier, the Rams’ senior catcher. “You want to end on a winning note, but to win four in a row on a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth inning, that’s awesome.”
Falmouth, seeking revenge for a 5-0 loss to Bangor at states last year, took a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth when pinch-runner Will Bopp scored from third on a sacrifice fly to deep left field by Colin Coyne.
Only a running, over-the-head catch by Charlie Budd — inserted into the game literally seconds earlier after starter Gary Farnham moved to the mound when teammate Nick Cowperthwaite reached the 110-pitch limit — kept a second run from scoring on the play.
“We actually had moved in a little bit because with a guy on third we wanted to be able to throw him out,” said Bangor right fielder Peter Kemble. “I was a little worried because I had moved him in and I didn’t want it to go over his head, but he’s been good out there all year and made a great catch.”
Bangor had one last chance against Falmouth right-hander Rob Armitage, himself just moved to the mound to start the bottom of the ninth after starter Cam Guarino reached 106 pitches.
Armitage struck out the first batter he faced and the second batter, Zach Cowperthwaite, also headed toward the dugout after thinking he had struck out.
But it was merely a miscommunication was only the second strike, so after a quick chat with Bangor coach Dave Morris, the sophomore third baseman blasted a double off the right-field fence.
“I told him to relax and hit one over the fence,” said Morris.
No. 9 hitter Tyler Parke followed by blasting a 3-0 pitch to deep center for an RBI double, and suddenly the game was tied at 3-3.
“I knew the center fielder was playing shallow and I put a charge into it,” said Parke.
Kemble was issued an intentional walk, and when George Payne reached on an infield error the bases were loaded for Fournier. He was jammed by a first-pitch fastball but muscled it beyond the infield for a single as Parke raced home with the winning run.
“It tailed toward me so I got the handle on it and just fisted it into center field,” said Fournier. “I put all of my power into it and got it into the outfield.”
Bangor finished its season with a 16-4 record while Falmouth was 18-2.
“The whole time you just knew it was going to come down to the wire,” said Payne, a senior second baseman. “Both teams were playing their best and only one was going to win and Derek got the big hit and did it for us. It’s crazy.”
The majority of this game was a pitchers’ duel between seniors Noah Cowperthwaite and Guarino, a left-hander already named this year’s Gatorade Maine player of the year.
Cowperthwaite scattered 11 hits over 8 1/3 innings while striking out one batter and walking two, while Guarino yielded eight hits with two strikeouts and two walks over eight innings.
“I knew they were a good-hitting team,” said Cowperthwaite, a right-hander. “But the defense came up with big plays to get us out of a couple of innings, we did it as a team.”
Bangor took an opportunistic 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third. Zach Cowperthwaite led off by striking out but reached base on a third-strike wild pitch. Parke then singled to right and Kemble sacrificed the runners to second and third.
Payne followed with an RBI single just inside the first-base bag and Fournier delivered an RBI groundout that might have been an inning-ending double play but a bobble by the Falmouth second baseman prevented him from forcing Payne out at second.
Falmouth countered immediately in the top of the fourth.
Consecutive one-out singles by Griffin Aube, Will Blum and Mike Kiely loaded the bases, with Aube then scoring on a fielder’s choice grounder by Marcus Cady and Blum adding the tying run as Garret Aube reached on an error.
Both pitchers quickly re-established their mound presence, with Cowperthwaite needing just 23 pitches to get his next nine outs while neither team mustered another major threat as the game entered extra innings.
Each team had a two-out runner at third in the eighth before fly-ball outs extended the game to the ninth.
And when Farnham and Budd limited what turned out to be Falmouth’s final threat to a single run, the defending champions knew they had one more shot at history.
“Bangor’s just a gritty town, that’s all there is to it,” said Farnham. “We’ve got guys who always step up and never quit.
“I think some teams get here and think they’re going to walk through it, but you have to work hard and we work hard all season. We don’t take a day off, and this is what we get for it.”