On Saturday morning, eight state flags hung from the left field wall at Hippach Field in Farmington. By late Saturday afternoon, there were six.

Sometime on Wednesday night, there will be one.

When the 13-15 year old New England Babe Ruth tournament started on Friday, there was one flag for each of the teams in the field. Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island each had one flag. Massachusetts, with teams from Braintree and Leominster, had two. So did Maine, with state champion Apple Valley in the mix, along with host team Franklin County.

Shortly after noon on Saturday, the Rhode Island flag came down. With a 9-3 loss to Braintree, Cranston was out.

There is nothing so perfectly and painfully named as the Loser’s Bracket. There’s no euphemism in its title. It is exactly what it says it is.

In an eight-team tournament like this New England regional, it’s a simple formula. As long as you haven’t lost two games, you play. After Friday’s opening day, four teams were on the verge of elimination. Two of them were done Saturday. Two more will be gone tomorrow. And one on Monday, and one on Tuesday, until on Wednesday, one team will have made it through with minimal scratches to represent New England at the Babe Ruth World Series, in Jamestown, N.Y., late next month.

It matters not to the Loser’s Bracket that you played hard and sweat upon every inch of the ballfield. Hustle and hard work are important, but the Loser’s Bracket looks at the final score, and sends you on your way. The Loser’s Bracket has the bedside manner of a hurricane. It’s a results-oriented animal.

The same thing happened at baseball tournaments around the world. At the American Legion state tournament in Augusta, Gayton Post of Lewiston arrived with an unbeaten record. On the second day, Gayton lost to Augusta. The undefeated regular season is moot. Gayton entered Saturday with all the wiggle room of a fat man in a folding chair.

Nobody expects to go two-and-out. A team that anticipates losing isn’t going to make it to a tournament of this magnitude in the first place. On Friday, Apple Valley lost to Franklin County, 5-3, after beating Franklin twice in the state tournament.

“Last night was a tough loss. We hadn’t lost to (Franklin County) yet. It’s hard to beat a team three times,” Apple Valley manager Joe Hutchinson said.

On Friday, Leominster, Mass., lost a 2-0 game to Manchester, N.H. On Saturday, Leominster played Apple Valley, and led 7-1 through four innings.

Then, the Maine champs picked up a couple runs in the fifth inning. Then, in the bottom of the seventh, Tyler Hutchinson hit a three-run home run over Hippach’s right field wall, and suddenly, that 7-1 lead was gone. Evaporated.

“It’s pretty intense,” Leominster right fielder Cam Ruziak said.

Leominster brought on ace Connor Gill in relief, and he recorded the three outs needed to preserve the 7-6 win.

“I knew I was coming in, so I just tried to stay calm and keep my composure,” Gill said. “We knew that we’re a good team. We’re resilient.”

Apple Valley had chances to prolong its tournament. Four errors against Leominster proved fatal, as did squandering an opportunity in the first inning. Apple Valley had the bases loaded with nobody out, but after a double play and a groundout, came away with no runs.

The Loser’s Bracket is not big on second chances.

“Having the bases loaded in the first inning with no outs and not coming up with a run really hurt. Making errors we haven’t made in the tournament run. The whole tournament run, we’ve been solid defensively,” Hutchinson said. “Today, the same as yesterday, we just made some mental mistakes and errors this team doesn’t normally make. Pressure, I guess, I don’t know.”

Leominster gets another day. That’s all it’s guaranteed.

“Now,” Ruziak said, “it’s win or go home.”

Apple Valley went home, and one of the Maine flags came off the wall.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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