FAIRFIELD — Portland second baseman Joe Apon didn’t think much of his team’s chances of winning two games in sweltering heat Saturday at the Babe Ruth state tournament for 14-year-olds.

“I didn’t think we had any chance,” Apon said.

Not only was Apon wrong, but he had a lot to do with Portland’s two wins over Central Maine, going 6-for-8 in the doubleheader. Portland won the first game 11-6 with a six-run rally in the top of the seventh. That forced a championship final, and again Portland rallied late, scoring five times in the bottom of the sixth to pull out a 9-4 win.

Portland advances to the New England Regional which will be played July 29-Aug. 3 in Westfield, Mass.

Central Maine knocked off Portland on Friday, 7-4, taking advantage of five errors. Saturday, it was Central Maine’s defense that stumbled, committing seven errors in the first game and three in the second. Portland, meanwhile, committed just one error in the two games.

“The bottom line is they just played better baseball than we did,” Central Maine manager Jeff Gardiner said. “This year, we just didn’t play the defense at the end. We were very good to begin with. We had one error in three games. We just fell apart.”

Portland’s Pat Ball pitched a complete game victory in the first game despite giving up four runs in the first inning.

“That’s one thing you’ve got to love about Pat Ball,” Portland manager Ian Boyle said. “He digs down deep and he guts it out.”

Apon and Dom DiMillo each singled twice and doubled in the first game and played key roles in the six-run rally at the end. Apon singled twice in the rally while DiMillo added a two-run double. Central Maine collected 11 hits, including a double and two singles from Zach Guptil and two doubles from Dylan Hapworth, but also stranded nine baserunners.

Both teams were essentially out of pitching for the second game. Central Maine got a nice effort from Joe LeClair, who pitched four innings and left with the game tied at 4.

“i was thrilled to death with Joe LeClair,” Gardiner said. “He did a great job.”

Portland led 4-1 after two innings, but Central Maine battled back for two in the third and another run in the fourth to tie the game. Travis Godbout started for Portland but gave way to Sam Luebbert in the fourth. Luebbert went the distance in the loss to Central Maine on Friday.

“Sammy pitched yesterday, 104 pitches,” Boyle said. “He came up to me today and said ‘Coach, if you need me, I’ll be there.”

Zach Mathieu relieved LeClair in the fifth and had a 1-2-3 inning, but he ran into trouble in the sixth as Will Barlock and Gabe Alexson sandwiched singles around Luebbert’s sacrifice bunt. A pickoff attempt at second with the bases loaded went awry and two runs scored. Apon capped the winning with a two-run double to right.

“It was awful,” Apon said of the temperature which approached 100 degrees on the field. “Everyone was dying, but we just kept playing.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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