It was a scorching summer day, and there was baseball seemingly everywhere in central Maine. Thomas College, Colby College. Winslow High School. Lawrence High. Memorial Field in Skowhegan. Hippach Field in Farmington.

Unfortunately, though, there was no baseball at Madison Area Memorial High School, which is where Madison Post 39 hosts its American Legion games. Augusta had to forfeit Saturday’s doubleheader against Madison due to a lack of players, and when Franklin County and Lincoln County each lost a game Saturday, Madison clinched a Zone 2 playoff spot without having to take the field.

“I’m glad we got a playoff spot, but I didn’t want it like that,” Madison coach Peter Kirby said. “It’s too bad for the other teams. They have no shot because of that.”

“It’s certainly nothing that I prefer, and certainly not something you can control,” Zone 2 commissioner Dave Rollins said. “It’s representative of the pressure that is on the game today, on local baseball.”

Augusta was the Legion state runner-up in each of the last two seasons. This year, coach Don Plourde has sometimes pointed out — always with the addendum that he doesn’t want to use it as an excuse — that Augusta had had low numbers at pretty much every game. The forfeits dropped Augusta’s record this summer to 2-13 after the Cony baseball team, also coached by Plourde, went 10-7 during the spring.

“It’s very unfortunate, and very rare in the city of Augusta, to forfeit a Legion game,” Rollins said. “It’s unheard of. It puts a black eye on the whole game. Any forfeit does.”

This was the second forfeit of the summer in Zone 2. The other, by Franklin County in a doubleheader against Amato’s of Rockland, was for the same main reason: Conflict with a Babe Ruth tournament. Franklin and Augusta are two of the youngest teams in the league, and thus have players who play both Legion and Babe Ruth ball.

“Because they’re good enough to play Legion, they’re most likely Babe Ruth all-stars,” Rollins said. “You can’t tell these kids not to play for the all-star team, and we don’t want to destroy Babe Ruth.”

Madison improved to 9-6 with the forfeits, while Post 51 (14-1) and Gardiner (13-2) also swept doubleheaders on Saturday and have locked up the top two slots.

South China Subway (8-6) is a half-game behind Madison for the No. 3 spot and may end up being hurt indirectly by Augusta’s forfeits. Subway hosts Lincoln on Monday and plays Waterville in a make-up game Wednesday — just three days before the start of the Zone tournament. Madison’s only game remaining is against Waterville on Monday.

As Subway coach Mark St. Amand pointed out, Madison didn’t have to use any pitching Saturday. St. Amand wasn’t sure how he would play Wednesday’s game against Waterville, a game that could decide who Subway plays on the opening day of the double-elimination tournament.

“It depends on what happens Monday,” St. Amand said. “Either way, you’ve got to beat everybody. I’m going to have to figure it out.”

However Madison ultimately got in, and wherever the Post 39ers ultimately end up, it is a remarkable turnaround from last season. Madison finished in last place just one year ago. Kirby gave a lot of credit to the Skowhegan Area High School coaching staff, which includes Rick York, Al Wilson, and Heath Cowan.

“I coached with Rick York for a couple years,” Kirby said. “So the transition from high school to Legion is (easier). We’re on the same page with what we want to do with the kids, and how we want to play the game.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]


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