AUGUSTA — A lot of things had to happen over the past week for there to be an American Legion Zone 2 play-in game on Thursday. If you’re a baseball fan, it turned out to be a treat.

There was a marvelous pitching duel between Franklin County’s Bradley Jackson and Dylan Maloney of Amato’s of Rockland. It wasn’t decided until the eighth inning, when Jake Lord scored on Andrew Pratt’s single and Bradley Jackson shut down Amato’s in the bottom of the eighth to preserve Franklin County’s 4-3 victory at Morton Field.

The win puts Franklin County (9-8) in the double-elimination Zone 2 tournament, which begins Saturday. The fourth-seeded Flyers open up with No. 1 Augusta (14-2) at 10 a.m. at McGuire Field.

“These guys showed up and played today,” Franklin coach Dan Stefanilo said, “and it always helps when your pitcher throws a game like he did. He hit spots.”

Franklin County was missing No. 2-3 hitters Tim Smith (one-game suspension after being ejected on Tuesday) and Jimmy Neal (college orientation). But Blake Hart, filling in at shortstop, started a nice double play in the second inning, and Ross Gordon, playing left field while Nick Hilton covered Smith’s center field spot, ran down Luke Morrill’s deep fly ball to save a run in the first.

That was how it went for the Flyers all evening. Amato’s had 14 baserunners in the game, but left 10 on base. After walking in a run in the bottom of the third to tie the game at 2, Richard got a groundout to end the inning. Amato’s had the bases loaded in the fifth with one out and the score tied at 3, but Richard got out of that jam without a run scoring as well.

Hank Poulin, batting third instead of his usual cleanup spot, drove in each of Franklin County’s first three runs. In the first inning, Craig Marshall led off with a triple and scored on Poulin’s double to left. In the third, Marshall was hit by a pitch, motored to third on a hit-and-run single by Hilton, and came home on Poulin’s sacrifice fly. In the fifth, Poulin’s two-out single through the left side got Hilton home.

But the game was still tied after the regulation seven innings, so Lord led off the top of the eighth. He went after the first pitch from Maloney and lined a double to the wall in right-center.

“It was crazy,” Lord said. “He’d been throwing wicked good first-pitch fastballs. So I was looking to jump on a fastball, but he ended up throwing that slow curveball that comes in looping. I saw it and I said, ‘Oh, I’m all over this one.’ ”

After Jackson flied out, Pratt worked the count to 3-2, then lofted a soft liner just over the glove of a leaping Joey Nelson at second base. Lord originally went back to second fearing the ball might be caught, but kicked it into high gear and was waived home by Stefanilo. Lord dove in head-first and caught the plate with his hand just around the tag of catcher Kyle Olehnik.

“I was thinking score the whole way,” Lord said. “I knew it was going to be a close play at home, because it wasn’t that far of a hit, so I knew I had to get down and get dirty.”

To start the bottom of the eighth, Stefanilo relived Richard, who had thrown 110 pitches and retired the last six batters he faced, in favor of Jackson. Maloney led off with a single off Jackson, but couldn’t get farther than second base.

“Bradley Jackson’s been in that role all year long,” Stefanilo said. “We trust in Bradley Jackson to get the job done.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243
[email protected]

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