As Bangor’s Zach Ireland walks knowingly away (left) teammate George Paine and Oxford Hill’s Wyat Williamson look to the umpire for the call after Payne attempted to score from first on a ball hit deep to right-center. Payne was called out.

PARIS — The Oxford Hills Vikings’ efforts to put pressure on Bangor’s defense usually bore fruit in Saturday’s showdown between two of the top KVAC baseball teams.

Bangor tried to do the same against Oxford Hills’ defense, and time after time, the Vikings made clear that they would have none of it.

Bangor allowed just three hits but made three errors, two of them key mistakes. Oxford Hills not only played the field cleanly, it was spectacular at times, and picked up a 5-2 win at Tim Bryant Field.

The Vikings (12-2) turned two 6-4-3 double plays, made two sparkling infield stops to rob Rams of potential hits and at least one run, and threw a runner out at the plate to kill a late rally.

“I’m pretty proud of them,” Oxford Hills coach Shane Slicer said. “With the lack of (defensive) reps we’ve had because of weather, that’s the impressive thing. We’ve been able to hit, hit, hit and hit, but to be able to field a ground ball, it’s just in pregame. That’s the work we’re getting because games are getting backed up and we’re getting rain days.”

Even with those defensive gems, the Rams (12-3) still had ample opportunities to produce against Vikings sophomore starter Colton Carson with 13 base runners, but they left eight.

“We had opportunities to score some runs early, but give credit to their pitcher,” Bangor coach Dave Morris said. “He’s a young guy. He threw strikes and got some calls and they had some sac flies that plated some guys.”

The opening for the first of three successful sacrifice flies by the Vikings came courtesy of an errant throw to first by Bangor senior starting pitcher Noah Tappan on Brayden Bean’s sacrifice bunt. The overthrow allowed Troy Johnson to take third, and he scored the game’s first run on Emery Chickering’s fly ball to left in the second inning.

“Sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do,” Bean said of the Vikings’ run manufacturing. “As soon as I put the bunt down the third base line, my only thought was first base. The bottom of the order did the job today.”

Another bunt in the fourth, this one by Chickering, resulted in another high throw, this time to third. The third baseman caught it but came down on the bag after Johnson slid in safely.

Johnson eventually scored on a balk by Tappan. Morris disputed the call, even asking home plate umpire Barry Fuller if he could play the game under protest, which is not allowed by the Maine Principals’ Association.

“He said both feet, the stride foot, has to have contact with the rubber (at the start of the pitcher’s delivery from the wind-up),” Morris said. “In 36 years of coaching, I’ve never heard of that and never had it called against us. Whether it is or isn’t (a balk), to me it was just the timing of the play. We had played four innings and we had pitched from the wind-up before and never said a word. It was a big play in that moment, but it didn’t have any reflection on the game.”

The balk also moved Bean to third, and he scored on Jonny Pruett’s sacrifice fly to left for a 3-0 lead.

The Rams left two runners in each of the first three innings as Carson (six innings, four hits, four strikeouts, six walks, two hit batters) searched for command of his curve ball. But the tougher the spot, the tougher he got, and he escaped the first with a strikeout and the second with a double play.

“I just tried to focus on getting ahead in the count,” Carson said of escaping the jams. “And I know I’ve got a great defense behind me. If they put the ball in play, I know we’re going to make the plays.”

The Vikings’ corner infielders came up big in the third. With runners at second and third and one out, first baseman Ashton Kennison dove to his right to stop a sharp Zach Murray grounder, checked the runner at third and stepped on first for the second out.

The next batter, Gary Farnham, hit another hard grounder that appeared ticketed for left field before third baseman Chickering dove to his left, got up and threw across to nab Farnham and end the threat.

Bangor finally broke through with a run in the fifth after a leadoff walk to Peter Kemble, a wild pitch that allowed Kemble to go from first to third, and a sacrifice fly to center by Peter Fournier.

But Oxford Hills answered with two in the bottom of the frame to make it 5-1. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out. Bangor reliever Nick Canarr walked Bean to plate a run. Chickering followed with his second sacrifice fly.

The Rams finally got the hit two-out hit they were looking for in the sixth when, with runners at first and second, Kemble ripped a double to the gap in right-center.

As Zach Ireland scored from second, Pruett chased the ball down and threw a strike to Bean in shallow right. The second baseman fired his relay on one hop to the plate, where catcher Wyatt Williamson was waiting to tag out a sliding George Payne for the final out.

Bean said he wasn’t expecting to have to make the relay throw home.

“I was thinking ‘cut three’ but I heard ‘four’ and got the relay and just (threw) right to home,” Bean said. “I was expecting the ball to go out further and thought it would be a trailer play to third, but the outfield is soft and it died, so we had a chance at the plate.”

“(Bean) was 20 yards out in the outfield and made a great play,” Morris said. “If he would have been in the infield, I probably would have held him. He had to make a great throw. I thought we needed to plate some runs and tried to be aggressive.”

“That was huge, because if we get to 5-3, it’s a whole different scenario,” Slicer said.

Jackson Crane relieved Carson to start the seventh and hit a batter after a strikeout. The Vikings ended it by turning their second double play.

Saturday’s win and a 2-1 win over Edward Little last week helped vault Vikings into the top spot in the Class A North Heals, .125 of a point ahead of the Rams. Oxford Hills has games against Camden Hills and at Mt. Ararat remaining. Bangor has one game left, at rival Brewer.

“I think confidence-wise, it tells them we could win this,” Slicer said. “Before, they knew they were good. When you start a freshman and six sophomores, they really don’t know where they stand in the league. But to get two big wins against teams ahead of us really gives them the confidence going down the stretch.”

“Are we there? I don’t know. But we know we can compete with anybody,” he added.

Oxford Hills’ Malachy Hurd is congratulated by teammate Wyat Williamson after scoring on a balk.Oxford Hills’ pitcher Colton Carson fields a bunt and throw out Bangor’s Noah Missbrenner on Saturday at the Gouin Complex in Paris.Oxford Hills’ pitcher Colton Carson delivers a pitch in the fourth inning of Saturday’s game at the Gouin Complex in Paris.


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