WALES — What turned out to be the winning play in Tuesday’s Zone 2 American Legion tournament quarterfinal proved that former Cony High School teammates Reid Shostak and Mitchell Caron have very different interpretations of whether baseball is a contact sport.

Caron’s hard slide at second base in the sixth inning helped set in motion a rundown between third and home that Shostak somehow escaped to score the winning run in a 5-4 Augusta Elks win over Gardiner at Oak Hill High School.

Fifth-seeded Augusta (13-6) advances to the next round, which becomes a double-elimination tournament starting at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Augusta’s CARA complex. The opponent will be determined based on the outcome of the other quarterfinals, as the tournament will be re-seeded. No. 4 Gardiner ends its season at 12-7.

The turning point came after Justin Rodrigue, Cam Brochu, Shostak and Caron hit four straight singles off Gardiner starter Kyle Fletcher to begin the sixth and tie the game at 4-4.

With Shostak at third and Caron at first, Taylor Lockhart hit a ground ball to short. Shostak held near the bag initially as Gardiner shortstop Dalton Therrien threw to second to force Caron. But Caron’s hard slide upended second baseman Brady Dion, leading Shostak to break for home.

Dion recovered quickly and threw home in plenty of time to get Shostak into the pickle. After drawing a couple of back-and-forth throws, Shostak broke for the plate, sidestepped catcher Jake Bannister’s tag attempt and dove home to make it 5-4.

“He went on his own,” said Augusta coach Tim Rodrigue, who was coaching third base. “It was aggressive. Let’s put it this way, I didn’t tell him to stop.”

Gardiner coach Dan Burdin emerged from the dugout with two arguments for umpires.

“I thought we had two outs,” he said. “I thought the runner clearly rolled into Brady at second, up at his waist coming up on the slide, which should have been interference. And Reid’s footprint (along the third base line) is 10 feet off the foul line. So I really don’t know where a base path is anymore after that game.”

Umpires ruled Caron’s slide legal because he slid directly into the base, and disagreed that he popped up — which would have been illegal — after the slide. They also ruled Shostak stayed in the baseline and the run counted.

Augusta pitcher Peyton Kennison took over from there, allowing just an infield single in four otherwise perfect innings in relief of starter Kolbe Merfeld to close it out.

“Coach told me at the beginning of the game that Kolbe was going to get the start and I was going to come in after four or five strong innings from him,” Kennison said. “When I get the notice that I’m going to be coming in in relief, it’s a different mindset than starting. I get to relax a little bit, get into the game and then warm up and go at my own pace.”

“They needed to see a different look. And it certainly worked,” Rodrigue said. “(Peyton) throws 10 miles-an-hour harder than (Kolbe) was. After you’ve seen that kid for four at-bats and then somebody comes in throwing that hard, it takes a little while to dial that in.”

Gardiner’s Alex Curtis (two hits) was dialed into Merfeld in the third inning, giving Gardiner a 2-0 lead with a two-out, two-run double.

The Elks answered in the fourth with two unearned runs, the second coming on Lockhart’s two-out single. But Gardiner reclaimed a two-run lead in the bottom of the frame on an error and Therrien sacrifice fly.

Fletcher went the distance for Gardiner, allowing three earned runs on eight hits, striking out 10 and walking one.

“We were riding him as long as we possibly could,” Burdin said. “I think he was up in the 120s in pitch count. Besides that one inning, I thought he pitched great.”

Merfeld allowed two earned runs in five innings along with five hits and two walks while fanning one. Kennison came in after a leadoff walk to Bannister in the sixth and retired the next seven before allowing an infield hit to Jonah Martin (two hits) with one out in the eighth. He immediately got Bannister to hit into an inning-ending double play, then retired the side in order in the ninth.

“I only threw one breaking pitch, and that was one slider. The rest were all fastballs,” said Kennison, who is teammates with Fletcher and Curtis at Thomas College. “TC (catcher Tayler Carrier) was setting up on the corner and I was just able to hit that corner spot and locate my pitch.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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