AUGUSTA — Gardiner and Post 51 were the favorites entering the American legion baseball Zone 2 tournament. They both reached today’s championship, but by very different routes.

Gardiner used pitcher Spencer Allen to hold off Madison long enough to pull away for an 11-1 victory Sunday and the first spot in the championship. Post 51, which lost Saturday and had to win twice Sunday, battled past South China Subway, 11-10, then beat Madison 11-1 in the day’s final game at the Piggery Road complex in Augusta.

Gardiner plays Post 51 at 1 p.m., today at Morton Field in Augusta, with an “if necessary” game to follow afterward. Post 51 needs two victories to win the Zone championship.

The Zone 2 champion advances directly to the state tournament, Aug. 1-5 at The Ballpark at Old Orchard Beach. The Zone 2 runner-up plays the Zone 5 runner-up in a play-in game at 11 a.m., Saturday at Old Orchard Beach.

Allen fell behind Madison 1-0 in the top of the first inning, but mostly cruised after that. He faced only six batters over the minimum in eight innings, and threw just 80 pitches.

“He really went after guys,” Gardiner coach Dan Burdin said, “which is what we wanted him to do and we’ve been working with him all year, is just pounding the zone. He just attacked the zone the whole way.”

Taylor Bacon helped Madison stay even through five-plus innings. Bacon works with no windup, but he knows how to pitch. Bacon used a curveball, a slider, and what looked like a knuckleball, and had excellent control.

After giving up two singles with one out in the bottom of the sixth, Bacon exited with the score tied at 2. Gardiner’s Jim Theriault blasted a two-run triple to break the tie, then came home when Dennis Meehan reached on an error.

Gardiner scored three more runs in the seventh, and ended the game by the 10-run rule with four in the eighth, the last coming when Theriault walked with the bases loaded to end the game. Kyle Fletcher led the Gardiner offense from the leadoff spot, going 5 for 6 with three stolen bases.

The Post 51-Subway game was by far the wildest of the day. Subway, known more for its pitching, had 19 hits, including four apiece by Ryan Pulver, Jory Humphrey, and Donald Camp.

After a three-run homer by Pulver put Subway up 5-2 in the top of the fourth, Post 51 came back with six runs in the bottom of the inning. The last two came on bases-loaded errors with two out.

Post 51 then got unearned runs in the sixth and seventh, and took a 10-7 lead into the eighth. Subway got an RBI double by Dylan Botbyl and a two-run single by Camp to tie it, but Post 51’s Jake Dexter, who pitched the final six innings in relief, got a strikeout and popout to strand the go-ahead run at third.

In the bottom of the ninth, Pulver was on to pitch for Subway, and he loaded the bases by hitting Jake Dexter, Sam Dexter, and Zach Mathieu. With two down, Warren punched a single through the right side for the game-winner.

“Subway’s a good team,” Post 51 coach Paul Jacobs said. “They played their (butts) off. We did, too. We, luckily, came out on top.”

“If the game wasn’t like that, we probably wouldn’t have had as much momentum coming into the second game,” Post 51 catcher Matt Woodbury said.

The final game was the very definition of an anti-climax. Worn down by the heat, both teams were flat, and while Warren issued six walks, he had the Madison batters popping his pitches into non-dangerous areas. In his seven innings, Warren got only five ground ball outs.

There were a few notable exceptions to the outward lack of energy. Sam Dexter had a great play at short, Woodbury hustled from first to third on a wild pitch, and Madison’s Dustin Warren made two fine running catches in the outfield. But for the most part, the players understandably looked like they were jogging on fumes.

“We were talking during the game. I think the both teams, the tempo in this game was probably a one out of 10,” said Madison coach Peter Kirby, whose team finished last in Zone 2 last summer. “It’s hot. Everybody’s tired. But (Post 51) showed their maturity for sure. They had to get it done, and they did.”

Sam Dexter hit a two-run homer in the third, and Post 51 still led 4-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh. Madison made five errors in the inning, leading to seven unearned runs, and Woodbury invoked the 10-run rule with a three-run double to right-center. On the day, Woodbury was 7 for 10 with six RBIs, and caught 16 innings.

“What do you say about Matt Woodbury?” Jacobs said. “Kids feed off that. A college kid could slack it, but no, he plays every out, every inning, every minute as hard as he can — flat out.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]


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