Rodney Bean of Oxford Hills dives over Bangor infielder Zach Ireland during a fourth-inning steal attempt in Augusta on Tuesday. Bean was tagged out. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

AUGUSTA — Few things feel better than a home run off the bat, especially a walk-off grand slam to win your school’s fifth consecutive regional title. 

Bangor’s Tyler Parke knows that feeling now, even if he didn’t know it the moment bat met ball.

Batting with two out in the bottom of the seventh of a 1-1 Class A North final, Parke launched the first pitch he saw over the fence in right-center to give top-seeded Bangor a dramatic 5-1 win over No. 2 Oxford Hills at Morton Field on Tuesday.

Parke, a left-handed hitting senior catcher, didn’t realize the ball cleared the fence until he was more than halfway around the bases.

“I had hit balls hard to the outfield like that, just not all of them felt that way,” said Parke, a left-handed hitting senior catcher. “I put my head down, looked at my first base coach waving me around, and I thought it’d hit the fence.”

A mob of Rams greeted Parke at third base “and they were all saying it’s gone, and I’m like, ‘Holy cow, I just hit one over the fence,'” said Parke, a leadoff hitter who hadn’t hit a home run in his varsity career. “Goodness gracious.”

Parke and his teammates were having the same reaction to Oxford Hills junior starting pitcher Colton Carson for most of the day, except they were simultaneously shaking their heads in bewilderment.

Carson struck out 14 in six-plus innings. He allowed two hits, a walk and two hit batters before leaving after he’d reached the 110-pitch limit two batters and no outs into the seventh inning.

“He pounded that outside half of the plate and I just couldn’t find the solution for it,” said Parke, who struck out three times against Carson. “Our M.O. every game is to grind guys out on the mound. If you don’t like (hitting) them, get them out of the game. Get to that 110 pitches as quick as you can. This time, nothing changed.”

“His location was great,” Oxford Hills coach Shane Slicer said. “I thought his slider was really good. He was pumping it up pretty good there early on. He was throwing hard. But his command of his off-speed pitch was excellent.”

Bangor starter Zach Cowperthwaite was just as stingy, yielding just two hits and a walk while striking out five in his seven innings. 

“(Carson) was throwing an unreal game,” said Cowperthwaite, a two-time strikeout victim. “At points I got nervous, but Parke was calling a great game and I knew my defense was going to make the plays, so all I had to do was throw strikes.”

“We needed to get an early lead so we could put some pressure on them,” Slicer said. “We just never had the chance to do that.”

Oxford Hills (15-4) finally scratched out the game’s first run in the top of the sixth, an inning that featured its only two hits.

Catcher Wyatt Williamson sparked the rally with a leadoff double that eluded the dive of leftfielder Jacob Munroe. After Jonny Pruett sacrificed pinch-runner Ty LeBlond to third, Cam Slicer sent him home with a sacrifice fly to right.

Rodney Bean followed with a double, but Cowperthwaite kept the score at 1-0 by getting Janek Luksza to ground out.

“(Cowperthwaite) was just steady,” Bangor coach Dave Morris said. “It’s a great example of a guy not letting his at-bats affect him and just staying in the moment. I thought the play of the game was when he shut the next guy down after (Bean’s) double. A lot of guys in those situations probably would have given up that second run.”

Bangor’s tying rally started with an error by Carson, who fielded James Neel’s high chopper on the rubber and short-hopped his throw to first. Neel ended up at second with no one out.

“We’ve got to make that play in order to beat Bangor. They don’t kill themselves,” Slicer said. “You can’t point your finger at one play specifically. We’ve got to hit the ball a little bit better. But we took the lead in the sixth and we had a guy going real well. Give them a lot of credit. That’s why they’ve won four (state championships) in a row.”

Neel quickly stole third, but Carson’s third called-third strike of the day to Parke and swinging strikeout of Zach Ireland left it up to Noah Missbrenner. He hit a 2-2 pitch to the backhand side of first baseman Ashton Kennison and into right field to tie it.

After a seemingly revitalized Cowperthwaite (84 pitches) set the Vikings down in order in the top of the seventh, a tiring Carson plunked Murray to start the frame, then walked his last batter, Carson Prouty, before giving way to Williamson in relief.

Nick Canarr greeted Williamson with a sacrifice bunt. An intentional walk to Munroe loaded the bases, then Williamson’s curve caught Neel looking at strike three to bring up Parke with two outs.

No one was happier to see Carson out of the game that Parke, but he had a certain amount of empathy, and unlimited respect, for his fellow catcher. 

“Wyatt’s also a very good pitcher,” he said. “Regardless of where you are, especially behind the plate, I mean, I know my legs were tired in that last at-bat. I can’t imagine what his are like. It takes a very special guy to get up on the mound like that. It just didn’t go out in his favor. But he’s a young guy. He’ll come back.”

“It was just a game of resiliency,” Morris said. “Sometimes you get in these situations and look to see what you did wrong. I don’t think Oxford Hills did anything wrong. We’re just fortunate to be on this end of the stick. I can’t say enough about Colton Carson. He pitched a hell of a game.”

Bangor (18-1) will try to become the first school to win five state titles in a row when it faces A South champion Gorham at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Joseph’s College.

Wyatt Williamson of Oxford Hills hits the ball to short during Tuesday’s game against Bangor in Augusta. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Oxford Hills starting pitcher Colton Carson delivers a pitch during Tuesday’s game against Bangor in Augusta. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Bangor starter Zach Cowperthwaite delivers a pitch during Tuesday’s game against Oxford Hills. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)


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