SOUTH PORTLAND — The Post 51 American Legion baseball team felt it was just a matter of time before it scored some runs in Thursday’s state tournament game against Morrill Post of South Portland. When Morrill helped Post 51 with three errors in the seventh inning, Post 51 had its opening.

Down six runs after six innings, Post 51 scored seven runs in the top of the seventh. That one big inning was enough, and Post 51 took a 7-6 win to remain in the winners’ bracket of the tournament at Wainwright Recreation Complex.

“I know this team. I know we have the capability to come back from a lead like that,” Post 51 manager Rusty Mercier said.

Post 51 will face the winner of Thursday’s late game between Coffee News of Bangor and Staples Crossing of Eliot at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Post 51 took the lead on Dylan Hapworth’s two-out double off Robert Graff. Hapworth had struck out in two of his first three at-bats against Graff before doubling down the left field line to take the lead.

“I’d just been struggling all day. I wanted to put a ball in play somewhere hard, and luckily it was down the third base line,” Hapworth said. “This isn’t the first time we’ve come back like that. We’ve got a bunch of guys who can string together hits.”

Post 51 sent 12 men to the plate in the seventh. With the bases loaded, Jonathan Wilkie singled to left field. When the ball was bobbled, Devin Warren was able to score from first base, cutting Morrill’s lead in half, 6-3. Two more Morrill errors extended the inning.

“Obviously, they put the pressure on us and had some good at-bats. But we bobbled a ball in left and a kid scored from first. That can’t happen,” Morrill manager Mike Owens said. “They’re a really good team, and you can’t give them extra outs. I thought they were going to get their runs, and they did with their hits, but we’ve got to make them earn them.”

Until the seventh, Graff cruised, allowing just two singles over the first six innings.

“We had talked about possibly taking (Graff) out, but his pitch count was still prettty low. He’s our horse. I thought (Post 51) was such a good hitting team, that with his curve ball he was keeping them off balance. I thought he had enough left to get us out of that inning, and he still did if we made a play or two behind him,” Owens said.

Post 51’s starter, lefty Cody Martin, also breezed through the early innings. Martin didn’t allow a hit until Ben Conti and Graff hit back-to-back doubles to lead off the bottom of the fifth and give Morrill a 1-0 lead. Morrill’s bid for another run that inning failed when Graff was thrown out at the plate on a missed suicide squeeze bunt.

Morrill got to Martin in the sixth, scoring five runs. Martin left down 3-0 with the bases loaded. Graff hit a sacrifice fly to right off reliever Devin Warren, and Drew Abramson’s two-run

double gave Morrill a 6-0 lead.

“Cody looked really good. I think the tempo of that inning got to him a little bit,” Mercier said. “All summer, that was probably one of our worst executed defensive innings. Granted, they hit the ball. They did a nice job, but we didn’t make a couple plays. Our head was out of it, in holding runners on.”

Warren pitched two scoreless innings of relief before Jake Dexter came on to close the game. After getting two quick outs, including a nice diving catch by second baseman Ben Frazee, Dexter hit Matt Beecher and gave up a single to Anthony Degifico. With the tying run on third base, Dexter struck out Nick Troiano looking to end the game.

“The next couple innings, they settled back in, so getting the lead then was huge,” Mercier said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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