PARIS — Patience and pickiness at the plate paid off for the Oxford Hills baseball team in an early season showdown with Bangor at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School on Saturday.

The Vikings rallied in the seventh inning to earn a 5-4 victory over the Rams, the game-winning run coming via a bases-loaded walk by Wyatt Knightly that brought home Matt Doucette from third base. 

Eli Soehren said Oxford Hills (2-0) wasn’t nervous when it entered the bottom half of the seventh down 4-3. Instead, the Vikings had one thing on their minds. 

“Score. Don’t hold it back, just go,” Soehren said. “Don’t be nervous, just hit the ball. It’s just a regular inning. We have a lot of people that know what this is like and it’s great for our team.”

Oxford Hills held a 4-1 lead through six innings. Then Bangor’s (1-2) bats lit up. 

The Rams’ first batter of the inning, James Neel, was hit by a pitch. That was followed by a single from Bangor starting pitcher Colton Trisch that pushed Neel to third. With runners on the corners, Keegan Cyr hit a single that drove in a run. Two batters and two outs later, Max Clark singled and drove in another run to make it 3-3. 

Braydon Caron followed Clark with a single that scored Cyr, and all of a sudden the Rams held a 4-3 lead.

After the final out, the Vikings hustled to their bench and didn’t need much of a talk from head coach Shane Slicer. 

“I didn’t have to tell them much. I think they were just fired up to play ball again,” Slicer said. “They’re just young enough to not realize we’re playing Bangor. So they know we have the last rips. It was momentum when we knocked the lefty (Trisch) out, because he was pretty dominant. We faced a guy who was pretty good, but he was more our speed and we felt more comfortable with (him). I didn’t say much, ‘We just need one run, so just execute.’”

Oxford Hills freshman Hunter Tardiff started the bottom of the seventh with a walk and was moved to second on a bunt single by Doucette after the throw to first bounce off his head. Nick Binette singled to right to fill the bases, then Ethan Cutler reached on a fielder’s choice that drove in Tardiff to tie the game at 4-4. 

Next up was Andrew Merrill, who earned a walk to load the bases again. Then came Knightly’s walk that brought in the game-winner.

“It was the walks that really killed us today,” Bangor coach Dave Morris said. “They’re a good baseball team, and we kind of knew it was going to be a close game. Early on there, I just think we made a couple mistakes there, but the bottom line was just walks.”

Oxford Hills drew 11 walks in the game, and the Vikings needed every one of them to get past Trisch, who went head-to-head with Soehren in an impressive pitchers’ duel.

With the home plate umpire behind the pitcher this season, teams have had to adjust their game plan at the dish.

“The umpiring is different back there, so we had to find out in the beginning if they’re giving the high strike or not giving the high strike — it’s different for every umpire — and he was laying off the high strike, pretty much, which I like,” Slicer said. “Their pitcher was up in the zone, so it was like, ‘Let’s try to get their pitch count up and knock him out.’ Defensively we did a good job, and Eli did a good job keeping us in it.”

Trisch struck out 10 Vikings and gave up only three hits, while Soehren struck out six and gave up just one run in five innings of work in his first varsity start. After settling in, Soehren was back to business as usual. 

“I was just coming out to pitch in a regular game,” Soehren said. “It was my first varsity start, so it was kind of nerve-wracking, but you’ve got to get through that and pitch. The first few batters were nerve-wracking, but then I got my composure back and tried to throw strikes and it worked out.”

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