The four teams that advanced to Saturday’s Eastern Maine Class A baseball semifinals employed four different pitching strategies to get there.
Top-seeded Bangor used the pitching-by-committee approach in its 6-0 quarterfinal victory over No. 8 Brunswick, as aces Trevor DeLaite and Andrew Hillier each pitched three innings before James Prescott came on to work a scoreless seventh.
That strategy was fueled in great part by Bangor’s offense generating an early lead, with the Rams scoring five runs in the bottom of the second inning and another run in the third.
That allowed Bangor coach Jeff Fahey more flexibility in his decision-making process and ultimately led him to pull DeLaite after the third inning and Hillier after the sixth, enabling both to be eligible for duty in Saturday’s semifinal against No. 4 Messalonskee of Oakland.
Fahey said after the game that he anticipated making such a move if Bangor moved out to a three-run lead early in the game based on his confidence in DeLaite and Hillier — both unbeaten in high school play over the last two years.
That sets up the defending state champions for a much-anticipated postseason clash with Messalonskee, the 2013 Eastern Maine titleist and 2012 state champion.
Messalonskee built an 8-0 lead and held on to defeat Bangor 8-6 in their lone regular-season meeting this spring at Mansfield Stadium in the Queen City on May 5.
Bangor has won 10 straight games since then and longed for the opportunity to avenge that loss.
“We’ve been saying for a couple of weeks that the only thing that lacked that last week (of the regular season) for us was not getting a chance to play Messalonskee again,” said Fahey. “Now we’re going to get that chance, and we’ve had a lot of great games in the last three or four years and I’m sure this one will be just like that.”
Messalonskee opted to hold out its ace, 6-foot-8 senior Nick Mayo, from its quarterfinal against No. 5, but sophomore Josh Joy pitched a five-inning one-hitter as the Eagles defeated No. 5 Oxford Hills 12-0 — with Mayo hitting a game-ending grand slam in the bottom of the fifth.
No. 3 Brewer earned its semifinal berth behind a tiebreaking two-run home run by Mike Grimble in the bottom of the sixth inning and the five-hit pitching of senior righthander Evan Riva, who improved his record to 7-1 as the Witches topped No. 6 Cony of Augusta 3-1.
Coach Dana Corey’s Brewer club will host No. 7 Mt. Blue of Farmington, which scored the only Eastern A quarterfinal upset with a 5-2 win over No. 2 Edward Little of Auburn.
The Cougars opted to pitch Amos Herrin instead of staff ace Colton Lawrence but for good reason — Herrin had pitched a complete-game five-hitter during Mt. Blue’s 3-2 regular-season win over EL on April 24.
Herrin had the Red Eddies’ number again in the playoff rematch, tossing a three-hitter as Mt. Blue secured a 5-2 win.
Brewer defeated Mt. Blue 6-0 in their lone regular-season meeting this spring, and the Witches are expected to send junior Matt Pushard to the mound against Lawrence in Saturday’s 7 p.m. clash.
Class B: Top-ranked Old Town of the Penobscot Valley Conference will be joined by three Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference foes in the semifinals.
The undefeated Coyotes, who rode Adam Richardson’s shutout pitching to a 9-0 quarterfinal win over Ellsworth, will likely send senior right-hander Eric Hoogterp to the mound when they host No. 5 Winslow.
Winslow scored a slight upset of the seedings in its 9-3 quarterfinal win over No. 4 Foxcroft Academy. Foxcroft was without top pitcher Abe Simpson (six wins this spring), who is recovering from injuries suffered in an automobile accident just before the playoffs began.
Winslow will have its ace, junior Jake Trask, available to face Old Town.
The other semifinal matches Midcoast rivals Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston and Camden Hills of Rockport.
Junior right-hander Nick Mazurek hit his sixth home run of the spring and pitched a four-hitter with 11 strikeouts and one walk as No. 2 Oceanside scored its 15th straight win since an 0-2 start with a 5-0 quarterfinal triumph over No. 7 Waterville.
No. 6 Camden Hills built a 4-0 lead and held on for a 4-3 quarterfinal victory over No. 3 Belfast after those teams had split two regular-season games. Ben Rollins pitched a six-hitter for the Windjammers.
Oceanside and Camden Hills also split this spring, with Camden Hills’ 3-1 victory on April 24 the Mariners’ last loss. Oceanside won the rematch 10-0 in five innings on May 25.
The likely pitching matchup for the third meeting will pit Oceanside’s Ryan Allender against Camden Hills’ Daulton Wickenden.
Class C: The Heal points nearly held true to form in the quarterfinals with four of the top five seeds advancing.
Defending state champion Washington Academy of East Machias will visit top-seeded Bucksport after both teams won 10-run rule-shortened quarterfinals.
Bucksport topped No. 9 Calais 16-1 and No. 5 Washington Academy defeated No. 4 Central of Corinth 14-1, results that should leave both teams with all their pitchers available — WA ace Gage Feeney worked just three innings in the Raiders’ victory.
Bucksport defeated WA twice earlier this spring, 8-0 in the April 20 season opener and 7-2 on May 8.
The other semifinal matches No. 2 George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill and No. 3 Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, teams that have not met this spring.
GSA rode the three-hit pitching of William Ricker to a 10-1 quarterfinal win over No. 7 Orono, while Austin Smith scattered seven hits as MA edged No. 6 Houlton 4-1.
Class D: One quarterfinal remained to be played Friday afternoon with No. 2 Stearns hosting No. 10 Penobscot Valley of Howland.
PVHS scored six runs in the top of the 11th inning Thursday to upend No. 7 Fort Fairfield 10-4 in the prelims.
The Stearns-Penobscot Valley winner will face No. 3 Ashland, which trailed No. 11 Katahdin of Stacyville 6-0 in the third inning before erupting for 16 unanswered runs in its final three at-bats for its 16-6, six-inning quarterfinal victory.
Stearns has defeated Penobscot Valley twice this spring but neither has faced Ashland.
The other semifinal sends the Cinderella of this year’s Eastern Maine tournament, 12th-ranked Schenck of East Millinocket, to Aroostook County for the third time in five days, this time a relatively short trip to play top-ranked Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook.
Schenck defeated No. 5 Hodgdon in the prelims and No. 4 Washburn in the quarters, while Southern Aroostook ousted three-time defending state champion Bangor Christian 15-8 in its quarterfinal.