AUGUSTA — Just about every kid who plays baseball imagines himself hitting the game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth. Jason Burns allowed himself a few moments to think about that fantasy on Friday afternoon.

“I thought about it a little in the batter’s box,” Burns said. “Whenever I think home run in the batter’s box, bad things happen. So I really focused on line drive, take it the other way, or if it’s inside, pull it.”

Five pitches later, Burns was the star in his own real-life dream. With two out and Erik Ogren on first, Burns blasted a two-run homer over the right field fence to give Augusta an 11-9 win over Bangor in American Legion baseball state tournament action at Morton Field.

The win assures Augusta a spot in Sunday’s championship game. Bangor plays Gayton Post at 11 a.m., today, followed by Augusta-Brewer at 3:30. If Augusta wins today, the Bangor-Gayton winner will need to beat Augusta twice on Sunday.

If Augusta loses today, Brewer will play the Bangor-Gayton winner at noon, Sunday, and the winner of that game will play Augusta at 3:30 p.m. for the championship. Augusta plans to start Jake Beland in today’s game.

The wild game included six hit batsmen, an ejection (Augusta assistant coach Keith Genest), and a bases-loaded strikeout that produced a run. It was still tied at 9-9 with two out in the bottom of the ninth, when Ogren, who was hit by pitches three times for the second straight game, got to swing and lined a single to left field.

Burns took a ball, and by his own admission, took a weak swing and fouled off the next pitch. After a ball and a strike, Burns drove the 2-2 pitch into the trees. His teammates rushed out of the dugout and had to be held off home plate by the umpire, and Burns pumped his fist and clapped his hands as he hit second base.

“I hadn’t really had a great day, but I felt confident in that situation,” Burns said. “I knew I was due for a hit. That first swing was ugly, and then just waited for my pitch and hit it.”

“That’s the best hitter in the state right there, Jason Burns,” winning pitcher Ryan Minoty said. “He’s seriously, so clutch. Obviously, that was the most epic game I’ve ever been a part of.”

Perhaps the biggest difference between the teams was that Augusta had Minoty to turn to in the late innings. Pitching on just one day of rest after throwing six innings and 110 pitches Wednesday, Minoty finished the game with four hitless innings to earn the win. Minoty struck out seven and walked three, including Dylan Morris (two doubles) intentionally in the ninth.

“I had six innings left (by Legion rules), and I told Coach, ‘I want it. I want to finish,’ ” Minoty said. “We knew that these guys were good. We’ve played the same group three or four times through high school and stuff.”

In contrast, Bangor used only two pitchers in winning the first two games of the tournament, but had to use both those pitchers again Friday. Starter Jesse Wood went four-plus innings and threw 124 pitches. Bangor coach David Morris then got an inning out of Tyler LaPlante, before turning to Joe Stanevicz (nine innings on Wednesday) and then Curtis Worcester (nine innings on Thursday).

Bangor’s final pitcher was Greg Duff, who recently completed his sophomore year at Bangor High School. Duff is the son of Dale Duff, who was announcing the game on WZON.

“We obviously had some young kids in there, and they did a great job,” Coach Morris said. “(Duff) was a JV pitcher. (LaPlante) was a JV pitcher. It doesn’t matter what we do or what we don’t have, because we’re just going to keep battling.”

The lead changed hands five times in the first five innings. Bangor was patient against Augusta starter David Clough, and went up 9-6 with four unearned runs in the top of the fifth.

Augusta scored three runs in the fourth, and the last was on a bizarre sequence of events. With two out and the bases loaded, Chandler Shostak swung and missed for strike three, but the ball bounced away and landed about 5 feet in front of the plate. With no play at first and Burns charging in from third, Wood desperately tried to flip the ball to Dylan Morris for the out, but Burns barely got under the tag to give Augusta a 6-5 lead.

Augusta scored twice in the fifth to get within 9-8, and tied the score in the seventh when Burns was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. After that, each team added to the tension by threatening to score, and the final shots were fired by Minoty, who has 17 strikeouts in 10 innings in the tournament, and Burns, who has reached base in 14 of his 17 plate appearances.

“What makes (Ryan) special is his ability to compete when the light’s burning brightest,” Augusta coach Ray Vallee said. “A lot of people want to be that person, but when the moment comes, they shy away from it. When that moment comes for Ryan and Jason, who are special players, they always seem to rise to the occasion.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

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