AUGUSTA — Gardiner/Post 204 was close — so close one more timely hit or a couple more defensive plays probably would have made the difference.

But on Saturday, it was Bangor who made those plays, and Bangor who took an 8-6 victory in an American Legion baseball state tournament play-in game at Morton Field.

Bangor catcher Dylan Morris hit the game-deciding blow, a two-run homer to right-center field in the bottom of the eighth inning. Bangor, which plays Ramsdell Rogers Post 56 when the state tournament opens Wednesday, trailed 5-2 entering the bottom of the seventh inning.

Gardiner/Post 204 (12-9) played well in all phases to that point. After spotting Bangor (20-6) two runs in the bottom of the first, Gardiner got one back in the second when Forrest Chadwick’s bases-loaded walk drove in pitcher Spencer Allen, and tied it in the third on Allen’s solo home run to left.

Gardiner took control in the fourth on Ben Crocker’s RBI single and a Bangor error for a 4-2 lead, and then made it 5-2 in the fifth, chasing Bangor starter Curtis Worcester with a single by Allen and a double by Mike Phelps, and getting a run home on Jimmy Theriault’s sacrifice fly.

Still, Gardiner left some runs on the table, and that would prove telling in the later innings. Gardiner left the bases loaded in the second, and had runners on second and third with one out in the seventh and a 5-2 lead. Instead of a single and a 7-2 lead, Gardiner got a strikeout and a groundout against Bangor reliever Joe Stanevicz to end the inning.

“If (we) come up with that hit there, we probably take all the wind out of their sails,” Gardiner coach Dan Burdin said. “We probably would have made a pitching change at that point, too.”

“In a lot of situations, both Worcester and Stanevicz have pitched really, really well with guys in scoring position,” Bangor coach David Morris said. “As a coach, you get a little shaky, but they’re almost at their best when there’s a little bit of pressure on them.”

Allen allowed eight hits through six innings, yet he had still thrown only 80 pitches and was in no obvious trouble. But Allen hit Cody McInnis to open the Bangor seventh, and Nic Cota and Morris followed with singles. On the single by Morris, the throw from left field got away, and McInnis and Cota both scored.

“(Allen) was throwing that curveball for strikes and he had that little change-up, so we really wanted to attack that fastball,” Coach Morris said.

Morris scored on a groundout to tie the game, and later in the inning, a two-out error extended the inning, and Stanevicz came home on a bases-loaded walk to Carl Farnham to give the Comrades a 6-5 lead.

Gardiner got that run back in the top of the eighth, but again left more on the table. With one out, Chadwick was hit by a pitch for the third time. With two out and two on, Cody Plourde singled to left to score Chadwick, but Gardiner had another runner trapped off second for the third out. This play really hurt, as Allen, who was 3 for 3 with a walk to that point, was denied the chance to hit with two runners on base.

“We kind of got back in to the stuff that we thought we had fixed,” Burdin said.

Morris’ homer gave Bangor the lead again, and Stanevicz finished off Gardiner in the ninth. Stanevicz pitched 4 2/3 innings of relief and allowed one run on two hits. In his previous appearance this past weekend in the Zone 1 tournament, he had to leave early with a sore shoulder.

“The last time he pitched, he felt a pull going across the top of his deltoid,” Coach Morris said. “We took some precautions, and things just loosened up, so it wasn’t as serious as we thought.”

Fayette/Staples 3, Westbrook 2: In Saturday’s other play-in game, Fayette/Staples scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to pull out the win.

Fayette/Staples pitcher Jeff Gelinas went all nine innings, allowing six hits and striking out nine. In the bottom of the ninth, Fayette/Staples tied the score on two singles and an error. With two out, Gelinas — who had not batted all game because of the designated hitter rule — was sent up to pinch hit, and hit a game-winning double on an 0-2 pitch.

Fayette/Staples also advances to the final eight of the state tournament, and is guaranteed a spot in the New England regionals Aug. 4-8 because it is the host team.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

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