Lewiston’s Brock Belanger slides back into first base as Bangor’s Noah Missbrenner can’t complete the pickoff attempt during Wednesday’s baseball game in Lewiston. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

LEWISTON — Wednesday’s KVAC baseball opener was as much a chance for both Lewiston and Bangor to get reacquainted with grass, dirt and even, for a few fleeting moments, the sun.

It was also a chance for the Blue Devils to make a statement against the four-time defending Class A champion Rams. And they nearly made an emphatic one.

Bangor hurler Noah Missbrenner stranded the potential tying and winning runs on base to snuff out a Lewiston rally in the seventh inning as Bangor hung on for a 5-4 win at Bates College’s Leahey Field.

Lewiston trailed 5-1 in the sixth, chased Bangor starter Zach Cowperthwaite, then got RBI singles by Ben Chasse and Noah Hill off of Missbrenner to pull within 5-3.

A one-out single by Hunter Landry, a dropped fly ball to center and a misplay on a ground ball to third made it 5-4 with one out. But Missbrenner got Jack Leblond to ground into a fielder’s choice and Chasse to ground out to third to end it.

“They’re a good club,” Bangor coach David Morris said of Lewiston. “A couple of plays here or there and we’re in trouble.”

“I told the guys pregame that (Bangor) is not going to make mistakes,” Lewiston coach Darren Hartley said. “They’re who they are because they’re going to pitch strikes, they’re going to defend and they’re going to manufacture a couple of runs, but they don’t make mistakes. We got them to get one late in the game, but it wasn’t enough.”

Despite six errors (four by Bangor), it was a fairly well-played game considering the weather hasn’t allowed either team much more than a couple of exhibition games. The miscues, a couple of which were mental, did end up costing both teams, though.

It looked like the Rams might regret squandering some early chances against Lewiston pitcher Evan Cox, who stranded runners at second and third with one out in each of the first two innings. He escaped the first inning by getting Cowperthwaite and Zach Murray to chase high fastballs for strike three. In the second, he got an assist from Hill, a freshman who made a nice stop and throw to first on Tyler Parke’s lined one-hopper to second to end the inning.

“I thought Cox threw a great game,” Morris said. “He had us guessing. He had that curve ball going and his high fastball. We probably swung at some pitches that we shouldn’t have but at the same time, he came in and had some zip.”

“He’s our number one. He’s a bulldog,” Hartley said. “He’s one of the toughest kids probably in the conference. He’s just a great competitor.”

Cox drove home the game’s first run in the third inning with a bouncer down the third base line that eluded the glove of the third baseman, plating Brodi Farinas, who had singled with one out.

The 47 pitches Cox needed to wiggle out of the first two innings ultimately caught up with him and the Devils in the fifth. He retired nine in a row before issuing a leadoff walk to Jacob Munroe. After a sacrifice moved him to second, Cox walked Tyler Parke. ‘

Senior left-handed batter Zach Ireland followed and went to the opposite field for a double that scored Munroe and Parke for a 2-1 Bangor lead.

Hartley blamed himself for leaving Cox in one batter too long. The senior had unofficially thrown 85 pitches before Ireland stepped up.

“I’m very conservative when it comes to pitch count. He was on a pitch count, but I let him extend it,” he said. “He looked good. He felt great. I forgot that that kid was a lefty. I was already going to pull (Cox) because (lefty) Hunter was ready to go and (Cox) stayed one guy too long and that’s my fault.”

Landry allowed a walk but got out of the inning with a double play on an infield fly to shortstop. Bangor’s runners seemed confused by what they thought was a late infield fly call on Cowperthwaite’s pop fly a couple of feet onto the outfield grass, and Ireland was doubled off second.

Cowperthawaite settled in to retire seven in a row before issuing back-to-back walks to Brock Belanger and Cox to start the sixth. Morris lifted him for Missbrenner after 68 pitches, unofficially. 

“I thought our pitchers did a great job of throwing strikes,” Morris said. “We made some mistakes. We’re just finding ourselves a little bit. Any way we can find a way to win the game, we’re pleased. (Lewiston’s) a good club.”

Bangor added to its lead in the sixth with the help of both Devil errors and a wind-aided, bases-clearing double down the left field line by Parke off Leblond.

Both teams finished with five hits. Parke and Ireland had two hits apiece for Bangor. Landry led Lewiston with two hits.

When a sharply hit grounder took a bad hop on Lewiston shortstop Evan Cox, he was in a position to block it with his chest and knock it down where he scooped it up and threw on to first to record an out during Wednesday’s game against Bangor. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Lewiston’s Evan Cox slides into second base in an effort to break up a double play by Bangor’s Zach Murray during Wednesday’s game in Lewiston. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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