SKOWHEGAN — What can happen in one day of the Zone 2 American Legion Baseball tournament? An awful lot, and so much of it unexpected.

Possibly the best pitcher in the league threw a complete game five-hitter and allowed one earned run, but lost. Another star came on in the ninth inning for a save after throwing 102 pitches on Thursday — and that’s only because he couldn’t convince his coach to let him pitch the eighth inning as well. He got that save, enabling the No. 6 seed in a six-team league to beat the No. 1 seed.

So it went on a wild Saturday at Memorial Field. Franklin County lost a 4-0 lead, then scored on Ryan Pratt’s walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth for a 5-4 victory over Gardiner. In the other game, Post 51 bolted to a big lead and held on for a 7-5 win over top-seeded RTD of Madison.

That sets up the first two games of Sunday’s schedule. Gardiner plays RTD in an elimination game at 10 a.m., and Post 51 takes on Franklin County at 1 p.m. There will also be a game at 4 p.m., matching the Gardiner-RTD winner against the Post 51-Franklin County loser.

The wild opener lasted only 1 hour and 49 minutes, as both Franklin County’s Colton Lawrence and Gardiner’s Kyle Fletcher were dealing on the mound. Lawrence allowed two runs on six hits while striking out seven in seven innings. Fletcher, meanwhile, struck out six and took a no-hitter into the fourth inning, then later faced 17 batters in a row without allowing a hit or a walk.

“You pull your hair out a little bit,” Franklin County coach Kyle Gunzinger said. “But they’re fun games, and that kid (Fletcher) is a stud of a pitcher. I feel bad for Colton, because he pitched well enough to get a win.”

The Flyers didn’t have many opportunities, but the difference in the game ended up being the way they took advantage of their big chances in the fourth and the ninth. With one out in the fourth, Lawrence took second on a two-base error, Andrew Pratt walked, and Amos Herrin lined an RBI single.

Jay Chenard’s walk loaded the bases, but Fletcher responded with a strikeout for the second out. Sebastian Lombardi stepped in and went after a pitch that was high and outside. It certainly wasn’t textbook pitch selection, but Lombardi lined a two-run single to right-center field to make it 3-0.

“My assumption is he chops a little wood, ’cause it looked like an ax,” Gunzinger joked. “We’ll take it any way we can get it against (Fletcher).”

Evan Roberts followed with a twisting popup than spun back into fair territory and landed just inside the line for another single. That made it 4-0, and Gardiner had only two hits to that point against Lawrence.

But there were still five innings to go, and Gardiner pecked away. A run in the fifth on Jake Martin’s double and Jake Bannister’s RBI groundout. Another in the seventh when Fletcher singled home Jonah Martin.

After working through 40 pitches in the fourth, Fletcher threw only 32 pitches over the next four innings — and only three errors made the count that high.

“He was throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes, and we weren’t very patient against him those middle innings,” Ryan Pratt said. “He seemed to get better as the game went on.”

So when Mario Meucci’s double scored Brady Dion in the eighth, Franklin’s lead was down to 4-3. With two out in the ninth and runners on first and third, Dion drilled a bouncing single off the pitcher’s glove. Pratt raced over from shortstop and tried a desperate dive-and-flip, but Fletcher came home to tie the score at 4.

“(Between innings) Coach Gunzinger said to stay loose, keep having fun,” Pratt said. “We kind of got tense there in the last few innings. He wanted us to just loosen up and try to get a run to win it in the bottom of the ninth.”

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Roberts got an infield single and Ryan Greenman bunted him to second. With that move, Gunzinger was putting the game in Pratt’s hands, even though his shortstop had a sore shoulder from diving for the ball earlier.

“He told me a couple innings before, ‘I’m not sure I can swing a bat,'” Gunzinger said.

Pratt lined a 3-1 pitch to center field. As soon as Roberts scored, their teammates rushed Pratt between first and second and body-bumped him. Things change quickly in these kind of tournaments, but the Flyers are currently in good shape and Gardiner needs to win two games on Sunday.

“You’ve gotta win the 10 o’clock game before you can start thinking about the 4 o’clock game,” Gardiner coach Dan Burdin said. “We’ve got to show up and be ready to play at 10. We’ve used one pitcher for the whole tournament, still. Tomorrow it will be all hands on deck for the 10 o’clock game.”

Post 51 was just 5-10 in the regular season, but came out with confidence and attacked the ball at the plate in the first three innings. Cody Martin started things off by doubling home Jake Dexter, and then Martin ran through a stop sign by third-base coach Rusty Mercier to score on a single by Ben Frazee (4 for 5 on the day). Post 51 added three more runs in the third on Frazee’s RBI single and Josh Woodard’s two-run single to make it 5-0.

“That’s just part of us in playoffs,” said Post 51 right fielder Reid Nutter. “We know when it’s time to turn it up a notch, and we did that today.”

Post 51 starter A.J. Godin had a one-hitter on 61 pitches through six innings, but RTD, which represents Madison Post 39, finally solved him in the seventh. Garrett Emery’s double scored one run, and Kam Nelson’s double brought home two more. When Chase Nelson singled to put the tying run on first with nobody out, Post 51 turned to Patrick Breton, who retired six of the seven batters he faced.

“He came in huge for us,” said Ray Bernier, who co-coaches Post 51 with Mercier. “Now the momentum’s all in their way, and then he had to come in, in a tight situation. He gave us some good outs.”

Breton got out of the seventh and eighth with a 5-4 lead, and his teammates made it 7-4 on Nutter’s clutch two-run, two-out single in the ninth. Bernier then went to Dexter, who threw seven innings on Thursday.

“Honestly, I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to go there,” Bernier said. “He kind of talked me into it. He wanted to go in, actually, in the eighth inning.”

Dexter retired three of the four batters he faced, although the other one was a solo homer to right field by Cody Laweryson. Still, it was plenty good enough for the save.

“We just didn’t play our best game,” RTD coach Peter Kirby said. “We didn’t show up to play like we should have. We know we’ve got a good ballclub. If we show up to play, and we hit, we’ve got a good chance to get back in this.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo


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