SKOWHEGAN — Recapping everything that happened Sunday in the Zone 2 American Legion Baseball tournament would kill hundreds of trees and probably break the Internet. Let’s just say it was a long day for everyone but Franklin County.

The Flyers, who finished the season second in the Zone, became the first team to clinch a berth in the state tournament with a 15-5, eight-inning win over Post 51 at Memorial Field. Earlier in the day, Gardiner defeated RTD, 9-6, but Post 51 eliminated Gardiner and qualified for states with a 14-10 victory.

Franklin County and Post 51 play at 5 p.m., Monday, at Memorial Field. If Franklin County wins, the Flyers are the Zone 2 champions. If Post 51 wins, the teams play again on Tuesday, and the winner of that game wins Zone 2.

The Zone 2 champion advances directly to the state tournament, July 30-Aug. 3 at Husson University. The Zone 2 runner-up plays the Zone 4 runner-up in a play-in game at 11 a.m., Saturday, at Husson. South Portland and Westbrook are playing Saturday for the Zone 4 title.

Against RTD, Gardiner led 8-0 after an eight-run second inning. Kyle Fletcher went 3 for 4, Dalton Therrien had two hits, and A.J. Oliver bashed a two-run homer off an unfortunate soul’s car behind the fence in right-center field.

RTD, which represents Madison Post 39, cut that lead in half on a grand slam by Cody Laweryson in the fourth inning. Chase Nelson shut Gardiner down for four innings, and it was still 8-4 in the sixth when Nelson was hit by a pitch, but ordered to stay in the box when the home plate umpire said he moved into the pitch. Two batters later, Dallon Stevens thought he was hit in the foot by a pitch, and when he didn’t get first base, he wound up being ejected.

That resulted in a lot of yelling at the umpires, but that went into the background the next inning, when Trevor Hisler’s grounder took a wicked hop off the face of Gardiner third baseman Mario Meucci. An ambulance arrived and the game was delayed, and Meucci had a busted nose but was otherwise all right.

In the end, Ben Allen pitched eight-plus innings for the win, and Oliver struck out the last three batters for the save.

In the next game, Franklin County pitched Amos Herrin, who had gone two innings to get the win on Saturday. Herrin threw eight innings and 125 pitches, and gave up seven hits — only one of those after the fourth inning.

“He’s got a rubber arm, man,” Franklin County coach Kyle Gunzinger said. “He’d be throwing pitches whether I pitched him or not. We’ve been very careful all year, in terms of building arm strength. We’d ask him, ‘Amos, you all right?’ He’d say, ‘I want another one.’ My brain was telling me to take Amos out, but he looked stronger as he went, too.”

“I was a little sore in the beginning, but my arm’s fine right now,” Herrin said after the game.

Franklin County trailed 5-3 in the fifth inning, but made it 5-4 on Jay Chenard’s bases-loaded walk, then surged ahead on Anthony Franchetti’s two-run double. The Flyers had six more runs in the sixth, and scored six runs for a 12-6. In that inning, four different Franklin batters fell behind in the count 0-2 — and all four reached base in the at bat.

“Seeing good pitches, hitting good pitches,” Gunzinger said. “A key spot for me is Anthony Franchetti’s double. To me, that kind of opened the floodgate a little bit. The rest of the kids settled down and started playing after that.”

“We just strung a bunch of hits together, and guys kept picking each other up,” Herrin said.

Franklin County had 16 hits on the day, and invoked the 10-run mercy rule when Ryan Pratt (4 for 6, four runs scored) came home on an error in the top of the eighth and Herrin set Post 51 down in order in the bottom of the inning.

Post 51 had to turn around and play Gardiner in an elimination game about 20 minutes later. Devin Warren, Post 51’s ace, was unavailable on Sunday.

“He had a family commitment,” Bernier said. “It’s something that was planned quite a while ago.”

Jake Dexter had already thrown seven innings on Thursday and another inning on Saturday. A.J. Godin had thrown nearly seven innings between Saturday and Sunday. Reid Nutter had pitched four-plus innings. So who would pitch?

“I told coach I just wanted the ball,” Dexter said. “Whatever’s left in the tank, just putting it out here, because we win or go home.”

“If it was the middle of the season, or the beginning, he definitely wouldn’t have come close to the mound,” Post 51 co-coach Ray Bernier said.

But a spot in the state tournament was on the line, so Dexter started the game, and threw a one-hitter for five innings. Gardiner’s aggressiveness didn’t immediately pay off — at one point in the middle innings, Dexter got six outs on a total of seven pitches — and Dexter went seven innings and 91 pitches, giving up three runs on seven hits.

The Post 51 players were hanging their heads in frustration during the loss to Franklin County, but regrouped by scoring three runs in the first two innings against Gardiner. With the score 3-1 in the sixth, Post 51 scored five runs — two on delayed double steals — for an 8-1 lead.

“We just flushed that (last game),” Dexter said. “We needed to play a better game in the second game if we wanted to keep playing.”

Post 51 led 11-3 in the eighth and 14-6 in the ninth (Cody Martin had four hits and Joe Leclair added three), but Gardiner clearly wanted to keep playing. Gardiner got within 14-10 in the bottom of the ninth with two on, one out, and the tying run on deck. Post 51 had already gone through two relievers. Who would pitch?

In trotted Dexter from shortstop, and in five pitches he had two groundouts, and had saved his own win.

“My arm feels real loose, and the boys made a lot of plays behind me, so it’s just a good day,” Dexter said.

Obviously, Dexter has to rest at some point. While Franklin County has used only two pitchers, Post 51 is running out of fresh arms. Warren is available Monday, but it is a legitimate question as to whether Post 51 has enough pitching if the tournament extends to Tuesday.

“I think we’ve got enough to get through it. It’s just a matter of, how far do we stretch them out?” Bernier said. “So the big decision on our part is going to see how much do we really want to go that way? It’s going to be a tough one, between trying to play the game to win, but at the same time, trying to make sure we’re playing for the future, so we still have a chance.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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