With Messalonskee’s success in the high school baseball season, Post 51 automatically became one of the favorites in the American Legion Zone 2 baseball season. Still, Post 51 coach Paul Jacobs knows that doesn’t mean anything right now.

“Everyone always says that they’re going to have a down year, but they’re always good,” Jacobs said. “It’s always good competition, I think.”

The Zone 2 season begins Monday with Madison hosting South China Subway. Six teams will play in round-robin tournaments on Saturday, and every team will play a 16-game regular season schedule. The final regular season games are slated for July 16.

Zone 2 includes Amato’s of Rockland, Augusta, Franklin County, Gardiner, Lincoln County, Madison, Post 51, South China Subway, and Waterville. The top four teams qualify for the double elimination tournament, July 21-23. The winner automatically qualifies for the state tournament, which is Aug. 1-5 at The Ballpark at Old Orchard Beach. The Zone runner-up must win a play-in game July 28 against the Zone 5 runner-up to advance to the state tournament.

Additionally, the Junior Legion schedule begins today. Fairfield and Somerset County Gold each have teams this summer. Fairfield hosts Brunswick at 5:30 p.m. today, while Somerset County Gold opens Saturday against Bethel. Legion is for players ages 15 to 19, while Junior Legion is for players 13 to 17.

A new rule was introduced at the national level, eliminating the re-entry rule during all games. Re-entry was previously allowed during the regular season. Zone 2 commissioner Dave Rollins said the state appealed the ruling, but was denied.

“We have no right to override that,” Rollins said.

New Augusta coach Don Plourde, who also coaches Cony High School, said teams could need to change their substitution patterns. You can no longer give the left fielder a rest in the fifth inning because he’s going to pitch the sixth, for example.

“I think coaches will certainly hold on to players a little longer,” Plourde said. “You won’t see pinch running in the second inning. I don’t think it’s going to be dramatic or drastic, because a lot of substitutions were late in games.”

Post 51 returns Matt Woodbury (who hit .320 as a freshman at the University of Maine at Farmington this spring) and Blair Blaisdell, as well as other key Messalonskee players like Reid Nutter and Devin Warren, and Lawrence’s Isiah Fleming. Sam Dexter, of course, is one of the top players in the state.

“He’s a one-in-a-lifetime kid you have a chance to coach,” Jacobs said. “Not just as an athlete — as a person, too.”

Gardiner should also be solid, with Spencer Allen, Ben Crocker, Josh Martin, Mike Phelps, and Jimmy Theriault all returning. Two former Gardiner Legion players are with high-level college-age teams this summer — Forrest Chadwick with the Lakeshore Chinooks in Wisconsin, and Ryan Leach with the Florence Red Wolves in South Carolina.

Waterville, like last season, would be one of the top teams in the Zone if everyone eligible came out for the team. The Beavers had almost daily trouble with numbers last summer. Coach Don Sawyer, who coaches the Waterville Senior High School team and will assist Eli Fitzgerald with the Legion this year, acknowledged Legion has been on the back burner with Waterville playing in today’s Eastern B final against Foxcroft.

“It looks like we’re going to have the same (numbers) issues that we had last year,” Sawyer said.

Waterville can also use Winslow players, and picked up Logan Hewes, a pitcher with the Black Raiders this spring.

Augusta was the state runner-up the last two years, but Ryan Edwards and Zack Lachance are the only players who return from last summer. Plourde said he has about a half-dozen players who are also playing Babe Ruth ball.

South China Subway should also be in the hunt after primary drawing school Erskine had a solid spring. Franklin County has a new coach in Kyle Gunzinger, and the Flyers are a young team that will rely on players like Jimmy Neal, Andrew Pratt, and Cam Abbott.

Madison is another young team, but has good numbers, and the new Junior Legion team should help in the long run. Amato’s was edged out of last year’s Zone tournament after losing a play-in game to Franklin County, and Lincoln also contended for a playoff spot well into the summer.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]


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