WATERVILLE — The game, officially, didn’t count. But for Skowhegan Tax Pro Junior American Legion coach Rob Bolduc, it still felt like one that got away.

Skowhegan seemed to get its quest for a state championship off to a bizarre and disappointing start at Colby College, letting a five-run lead slip away in what was ostensibly a 7-6 loss to Yankee Ford out of Cape Elizabeth, apparently meaning a trip to the losers’ bracket in the four-team tournament.

Those qualifying words are necessary because it was revealed afterward that the game was actually a forfeit, due to Cape Elizabeth only having eight eligible players for the game. That meant that Cape Elizabeth would be saddled with a loss in the double-elimination tournament and Skowhegan would get a win by default, but Rod Stevens, the Maine Junior Legion commissioner, permitted Cape Elizabeth to play the game as a forfeit, without telling Skowhegan of the technicality, in hopes of having the tournament play out as normally as possible.

“I talked to coach Sullivan today, and we really thought he was going to have nine players on his roster be here tonight,” Stevens said. “When he got here at game time and submitted his lineup and his roster of the players he had eligible, I knew at that point in time he didn’t have enough. … I didn’t want Skowhegan to get a bye into (today) to play Cheverus without having pitched anybody. It’d be an advantage for Skowhegan.”

The plan worked, as Bolduc had no idea of the situation until after the game was over.

“It’s an exceptionally strange feeling,” he said. “The guys were like ‘What is going on?’ It shocked all of us.”

Until that point, Bolduc thought his team was going to have to regroup out of the loser’s bracket after a game in which his team, through wildness on the mound and mistakes in the field, let a commanding lead slip away. Skowhegan went up 4-0 in the first, then added another run on a Carter Hunt double in the third to take a 5-0 advantage, which it took into the top of the fifth.

Skowhegan got the first two outs, but couldn’t find the third as Cape Elizabeth began a rally. Carson Sullivan singled, and three walks and a hit-by-pitch in the next four at-bats, along with two wild pitches, trimmed the lead to 5-3. Brandon Capano then lofted a deep fly that fell for an error, bringing home two more runners and tying the game at 5. The lead was gone in the next at-bat, with Jack Sands hitting a soft single to right that scored Capano with the go-ahead run.

“I thought we were in control of the game until that fifth inning. I thought our guy was throwing lights-out. He struggled at times with his control, but he always seemed to make a pitch when he needed to,” Bolduc said of starter Logan Moffett, who struck out five, walked four and stranded five runners in 4 2/3 innings. “That fifth inning just got away from him, and it fell apart, fast.”

Skowhegan rebounded enough to rally with a run in the sixth when Caleb Bridges singled and pinch-runner Spencer Wyman scored on a bases-loaded walk, but Cape Elizabeth struck again in the seventh. Dylan Miner laced a one-out triple into the left-field gap, then came home on Zachaios Fitts’s slow roller to third.

Skowhegan got the tying run on base in the seventh when Wyman drew a two-out walk, but a strikeout ended the threat and the game.

Skowhegan started the game in ideal fashion, jumping on Cape Elizabeth by sending eight batters to the plate in the first. Zeb Tibbetts, Moffett, Colby Miller and Aiden Louder all scored, with Louder picking up an RBI with a single.

“Overall, I think we battled, and we put some good at-bats on all the way through, even that last inning,” Bolduc said. “Our team’s not a team that typically scores a lot of runs, so when we jumped out to that lead, we all felt pretty good.”

Skowhegan made it 5-0 in the third when Eric Wescott walked and scored on Hunt’s double to deep left field. The lead didn’t last for much longer, but Skowhegan still moves on with the default win, and Bolduc said he expects his group to shake off what felt like a missed chance regardless of what the official result says.

“I don’t expect (a letdown),” he said. “This is a pretty laid-back group. … They’re resilient, they’ve bounced back all year. I’m not concerned.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

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Twitter: @dbonifantMTM