AUGUSTA — To have a chance to win the Zone 2 American Legion baseball tournament, Post 51 needed a good outing from Blair Blaisdell, who was pitching on one day of rest after throwing 4 2/3 innings Saturday.

If that worked out, Post 51 could then pitch Isiah Fleming in the second game. Fleming would be working on zero days rest, after giving up seven hits in three innings Sunday.

Gardiner probably still isn’t sure how, but it all worked out. Blaisdell went 6 2/3 innings as Post 51 won the first game, 7-4. Then Fleming threw a complete game and beat Gardiner 5-1 in the if necessary game and Post 51 won the Zone 2 title.

“I just came prepared,” Fleming said. “I wanted to win this, because in my whole life, I’ve never won a championship like this. I felt like I was throwing harder today, better command on my pitches, better release points.”

Post 51 (19-2) advances directly to the state tournament, Aug. 1-5 at The Ballpark at Old Orchard Beach. Post 51’s first game in the tournament will be at 12:30 p.m., Aug. 1, against the runner-up from Zone 1 or Zone 3. Gardiner (16-4) plays the Zone 5 runner-up in a play-in game at 11 a.m., Saturday, in Old Orchard Beach.

Post 51, which hadn’t reached even the play-in game despite being a top-two seed in Zone 2 in 2010 and 2011, completed a comeback from a tournament-opening 6-2 loss to Madison. On Monday, Gardiner took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on two walks and a two-run double by Dennis Meehan. Gardiner loaded the bases with nobody out in the second, but could not score.

After those first two shaky inning, Blaisdell pitched shutout ball over the next four. He said he settled down after a discussion with home plate umpire Jeff Mertzel.

“The ump kind of got on me, actually,” Blaisdell said. “I said a few things. He heard. We had a little confrontation in the dugout, so I had to kind of get my cool, or he was going to toss me. I got it together, started pounding the zone, and kept my team in it.”

Post 51 got an unearned run in the fourth, then went up 3-2 in the top of the sixth on a run-scoring error and an RBI double by Zach Mathieu. But the fun was just starting. Gardiner got two runs in the bottom of the seventh on a two-out, two-run triple by Spencer Allen. In the top of the eighth, Devin Warren walked and came home on Mathieu’s triple, then Mathieu scored on a short passed ball to give Post 51 a 5-4 lead.

Reid Nutter, who was also pitching on short rest, had relieved Blaisdell in the seventh. When Nutter walked two and gave up a bunt single to load the bases with one out, Post 51 coach Paul Jacobs turned to Patrick Breton, a Messalonskee High School senior who spent most of the summer pitching for Fairfield’s Junior Legion team.

Breton struck out Jim Theriault, then retired Meehan on a long fly ball to preserve Post 51’s lead.

“Good location, controls bat speed, keeps the ball down,” Jacobs said, giving a quick scouting report on Breton. “He hits his spots. It was huge.”

Post 51 made it 7-4 in the ninth on a two-run single by Matt Woodbury (who caught a total of 34 innings between Sunday and Monday). In the bottom of the ninth, Mike Phelps walked with one out, but was erased on a game-ending double play.

“First game, we hit the ball hard,” Gardiner coach Dan Burdin said. “We were right where we wanted to be all game long. They had their outfield playing real deep. That ball Meehan hit to center with the bases loaded, any other game that’s probably over the center fielder’s head. They had their outfielders and their infielders positioned perfect all day long. We get one break, and we probably win that first one.”

Gardiner actually out-hit Post 51 8-6 in Game 2, but Fleming struck out 10 and didn’t walk anyone. Post 51’s runs came on an RBI double by Warren, an RBI triple by Sam Dexter, sacrifice flies by Blaisdell and Fleming, and an error. While Post 51 ran into four outs on the bases, Gardiner also committed five errors.

“The second one, you could kind of feel it in the dugout — people were a little down,” Burdin said. “And Fleming threw a great game.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]


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