BANGOR — When it comes to their pitchers, baseball men hate walks and love strikeouts — and they often love the strikeouts so much they’ll take the walks as a trade-off.

That’s certainly what Morrill Post of South Portland did on Thursday afternoon against Franklin County in the American Legion Baseball state tournament. The Morrill pitchers walked 10, but they also struck out 15, and that was enough to eliminate Franklin County with an 8-5 victory at the Winkin Complex at Husson University.

“It was a survivor game type of thing,” Franklin County coach Kyle Gunzinger said. “It’s a hit or two away, and this might be a 12-8 game, us.”

Franklin County, the Zone 2 runner-up, ends its season at 12-10.

It was a strange game in many ways. Morrill’s Nick Whitten hit the ball out of the infield once, but still had RBIs in three straight at bats. Franklin’s Amos Herrin lined a shot into the outfield and was thrown out at first by Morrill right fielder Jacob Brown. Franklin’s Ryan Greenman stopped halfway to second and turned around and went back to first because a teammate was at second. The teammate was out, but Greenman ended up stealing second on the next pitch anyway.

The strangest occurrences, though, centered around Morrill starting pitcher Henry Curran. In just five innings, Curran threw 112 pitches — five more than Post 51’s Jake Dexter threw in a nine-inning victory earlier in the day. Curran allowed four hits, walked seven, and struck out nine.

Franklin County never led, but taking the lead was always within reach. Morrill led 1-0 and 2-1 before scoring three runs in the bottom of the third inning to break a 2-2 tie. Morrill scored those three runs on one hit, three walks, two stolen bases, two wild pitches, and a balk.

Curran walked three and committed a balk in the fourth inning, but still gave up only one run (Franklin left 14 runners on base on the day). In the fifth, with the score 5-3, Cam Abbott led off with a triple, Herrin walked, and the Flyers had runners on first and third with nobody out. Herrin later stole second, but Curran struck out three in a row, and Morrill padded its lead to 7-3 in the bottom of the inning.

“Kid got out of it second and third with three straight K’s,” Gunzinger said. “You really have to put a ball in play there. Realistically, one base hit could open the floodgates, but that’s kind of the story of our year. The kids, they gut it out, though. They play tough.”

Curran was on pace to throw more than 200 pitches, so Morrill removed him to start the sixth. Andrew Pratt and Abbott lined RBI singles to get Franklin within 7-5 when Morrill went to the bullpen again for South Portland High’s Jon Vickers. After loading the bases with one out on a walk, Vickers fanned the last two batters to end the inning.

“For school season, I was a relief pitcher,” Vickers said, “so I’m used to it. That’s what they need me for.”

Vickers went the final 3 2/3 innings for the save, and struck out six without allowing a hit. He had gone three innings the day before in a 4-1 loss to Bangor.

“My arm felt great,” Vickers said. “I did some running when I got home. I threw three innings yesterday, but only 40 pitches, so it’s not that hard. I have a rubber arm. I can throw as many as I need.”

Franklin County will certainly lose some key players, but the Flyers are also in good position to contend next season, when Zone 2 will automatically put two teams in the state tournament.

“We’re only going to lose four kids,” Gunzinger said. “I played in this (state tournament) about 19 years ago for the last time. I said to, I think Cam, at the beginning of the year, ‘I’d really like to get you guys to this thing to experience it,’ because it is a different experience. You know you’re in the top part of teams in the state, because there’s only eight of ’em left.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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