WATERVILLE — There is nothing like an inning-ending double play to kill momentum.

After leading for all but one-half inning, the second-seeded Messalonskee High School baseball team was back on its heels heading into the sixth.

The Eagles had just allowed No. 3 Oxford Hills to cut what was once a three-run lead to just one, and in the bottom of the fifth they were held scoreless despite loading the bases with no outs.

In an instant momentum swung back to Messalonskee, however, as third baseman Jonathan Wilkie, second baseman Ben Frazee and first baseman Connor Garland combined for the double play that ultimately helped the Eagles hold on for a 4-2 victory over the Vikings on Saturday at Thomas College.

“I had a lot of trust in our guy Devin Warren to get three big outs and push the momentum back our way,” Messalonskee junior Jake Dexter said. “They had momentum and he went out there like the competitor he is. He took those three outs from them and kind of sucked the life right out of them.”

The Eagles will now face top-seeded Bangor in the Eastern A finals Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Morton Field after Bangor won a battle between Rams 1-0 over Cony.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” Messalonskee coach Ray Bernier said. “I’m just glad we’re there to have a chance at it and see what happens.”

Tough games are something the Eagles are used to by now.

After grinding out Lawrence 5-2 in the quarters, Messalonskee needed just enough offense and nearly flawless defense to hold off the Vikings.

The Eagles couldn’t have opened the game stronger, loading the bases to start the first inning and plating two runs, with the first coming in on a single from Dexter.

Zach Mathieu then scored on a sacrifice fly out to center from Frazee for the first out of the inning, but from there Oxford Hills’ starter Dalton Rice started to settle in.

“We thought if we were able to jump on them early it would give them a little something to think about in the back of their minds,” Bernier said. “You need to do anything to get an advantage and that makes a big difference, especially against a good pitcher like Rice.”

Rice faced just two batters over the minimum over the next three innings, but Warren was every bit up to the task of matching his counterpart.

Through the first four innings Warren allowed no runs on one hit, but in the fifth he began to struggle a bit on the mound.

“Around the fourth or fifth inning he did a little bit of laboring. We were debating whether or not we should pull him or not, but he helped talk us into keeping him in there,” Bernier said. “We decided, well, senior captain we’ll let him ride it out and see what happens.”

The Vikings proceeded to get two runs on two hits and one error — the only one of the game for Messalonskee — but with the tying run on second Warren got himself out of the jam by striking out Rice, buckling his knees with an 0-2 curve ball.

“I was just trying to aim my pitches and that’s something you don’t do,” Warren said. “You just have to let it fly and go back to what I started with. I was hoping it would come back out and it did.”

A lead-off double in the bottom of the fifth by Jared Cunningham, single from Warren and intentional walk to Mathieu loaded the bases, but each runner would be stranded as Rice set the next three Messalonskee hitters down in order.

In the top of the sixth Warren beaned Ty Martin in the ankle with one out, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate.

Warren proceeded to get Matt Smith to ground into the 5-4-3 double play though, and the Eagle’s defense — which made 19 of the 21 outs — held.

“Our defense is unreal,” Warren said. “We had a couple slip ups in the regular season but we came out to play in the playoffs and as you could see they really did it.”

Messalonskee added an insurance run in the bottom half of the inning when Sam Bell scored on a ground out from Warren, and in the seventh the Eagles’ senior captain set the bottom three in the Vikings’ order down consecutively to secure his team’s third straight trip to the Eastern A finals.

Warren finished 2-for-4 with a run scored, while Jared Cunningham had a double and was on base all four times. Mathieu had a single and walked three times, scoring once.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: Evan_Crawley

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