SKOWHEGAN — Post 51 lost 10 of its 15 regular season games to finish in last place. The Zone 2 American Legion Baseball tournament was also a battle.

It became a question of whether Post 51 could piece together enough pitching to win the championship, and also whether one run would be enough.

Thanks to Zach Mathieu, Jake Dexter, A.J. Godin, and Devin Warren, the answers were yes on both counts. Mathieu singled home Cody Martin in the first inning, and that run held up as Post 51 eked out a 1-0 victory over Franklin County in Tuesday evening’s Zone 2 final at Memorial Field.

Dexter pitched the first four innings, giving him 19 2/3 innings over the last seven days. Godin went the next two, and Warren — who pitched eight shutout innings and threw 84 pitches Monday — finished the last three innings.

“(Jake and Devin) both said that they fell really good,” Post 51 co-coach Ray Bernier said. “I think, Devin, even though he threw well, I think that still showed, because that was asking a lot from him to do back-to-back days like what he did. But they’re gamers. I wouldn’t have done it if I thought their arms were in jeopardy.”

The win means Post 51 (10-11) is the Zone champion and will play at 12:30 p.m. next Wednesday at Husson University in the second game of the state tournament. Franklin County faces Zone 4 runner-up Westbrook in a state tournament play-in game Saturday morning at Husson.

Dexter was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament and received a wooden bat donated by Quinn Wood Bat Company of Skowhegan. Over the four days, Dexter was eight for 21 (.381) and allowed three runs in 12 2/3 innings.

Evan Roberts, a side-armer from Mt. Blue High School, was just as effective as the Post 51 trio. Roberts pitched a complete game on 87 pitches, allowing six hits and no earned runs.

“A lot of his pitches, he keeps them nice and low — and they stay low,” Bernier said. “That definitely helps in baseball, because if you think about it there wasn’t many balls lifted today for us.”

As it turned out, the best chance for Franklin County (11-8) to score was in the top of the first inning. Ryan Pratt led off with a single through the left side before Jay Chenard and Andrew Pratt each reached on errors. The bases were loaded with nobody out, but Dexter buckled down and got a strikeout, a forceout at the plate, and another groundout to end the inning.

“You can get two or three runs there,” Franklin County coach Kyle Gunzinger said. “You get a base hit, you get two (runs). It’s now first and third. But it happens. He pitched his way out of it.”

In the bottom of the first, Martin got on base via an error and stole second. He was still there with one out when Mathieu singled up the middle to drive in what would be the game’s lone run.

While the run was unearned and there were more errors to come, Franklin County also made some tremendous defensive plays. In the third, Zach Mathieu hit a shot off Amos Herrin at third base, but shortstop Ryan Pratt grabbed the ricochet and gunned Mathieu out at first to save a run. In the sixth, Dexter tried to take an extra base on a groundout, and was erased on a 6-3-5 double play. Then in the eighth, Post 51 put runners on second and third with no outs. Herrin started a rundown for one out, then made a marvelous backhand stab and throw to nail Joe Leclair at the plate. Leclair tried to bowl over Franklin catcher Andrew Pratt, and was out and ejected when Pratt held on.

“I think five of my nine starters were gone today,” Gunzinger said. “I told the kids after, ‘If you remove everything and look at it, we’re one of the little guys. They’re one of the big guys.’ We’re even on the season against them. So we can’t hang our heads against a game like that.”

The Flyers couldn’t capitalize on Andrew Pratt’s leadoff double in the sixth, but had one more good chance in the eighth. Chenard led off and got to first when a throw got away. Chenard tried to take second, but Post 51 catcher Trevor Gettig was backing up the play and grabbed the loose ball, plus Chenard had to run around the base umpire on his way to second, so he was the first out when Gettig made a strong throw. Pratt singled and Herrin walked to put two runners on, but Warren kept the game scoreless.

Gunzinger said he thinks Franklin will have a more full roster on Saturday.

“I think we’ll have at least a few of them back,” Gunzinger said. “I have a concern with a knee. I love baseball, and we’d love to win this thing, but I’m not going to do it to adversely affect my kids’ health.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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