SOUTH PORTLAND — Before Friday, Post 51 stubbornly held its ground in the winner’s bracket of the American Legion state tournament by making opponents pay for their mistakes. On Friday, Zone 1 rival Bangor Coffee News made it pay for a couple of miscues of its own.

Johnny Cote’s single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning handed Messalonskee Post 51 its first loss of the tournament, 4-3, Friday at Wainwright Recreation Complex.

With the win, Bangor Coffee News clinched a spot in the championship and will play Morrill Post of South Portland at 3 p.m. Saturday. Post 51 faces Staples Crossing of Eliot in an elimination game at 11 a.m.

A one-out error in the 10th allowed Peter Kemble to reach against Post 51 reliever Jake Dexter, who then hit Kyle Stevenson and walked Jordan Derrah to load the bases.

With a 1-2 count, Cote flared a Dexter fastball into right field to drive in the winning run.

“He jammed me but I fought it off, dropped it into shallow right field and that was the ball game,” Cote said. “He was coming fastball to every single batter. I don’t think he had an off-speed pitch, so I was just trying to put the bat on the ball, put it in play and drive that run in.”

On Thursday, Post 51 (20-6) scored seven runs in the seventh to beat Morrill Post of South Portland, 7-6. Trailing 3-0 after four against Bangor starter Andrew Hillier on Friday, Post 51 rallied for two in the seventh and one in the eighth to tie it.

Dexter hit a sacrifice fly and Joe Leclair later followed with an RBI single in the seventh to make it 3-2. Ben Frazee’s pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth pulled Post 51 even.

Danny Pooler and Devin Warren combined for five innings of one-hit relief to keep Post 51 in it. But Trevor DeLaite stranded the go-ahead runs at second and third in the eighth and went on to throw 2 1/3 innings of hitless relief to pick up the win for Bangor (18-7).

“When you get in that tight situation, I think you’ve got to go with the guys who have the most experience, and that’s what we did,” Bangor coach David Morris said.

“We knew they’re not going to give up,” Morris added. “Our guys hung in there. It’s a good team win for us. Andrew Hillier threw a heck of a game and then Trevor DeLaite coming in and keeping them right there.”

Dylan Hapworth had three hits and scored a run for Post 51, while Pooler added two hits, including a double.

“We didn’t play our best baseball today. We didn’t execute in those tight spots,” Post 51 coach Rusty Mercier said. “But our kids stayed in it and battled back. Defensively, we could have made a couple more plays to help us. But give Bangor credit. They’re the defending state champs and until you beat them in this tournament, they’re the team to beat.”

Bangor loaded the bases against Post 51 starter A.J. Godin to start the bottom of the first. Hillier drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, but Godin ended the damage there, making a nice play on Kemble’s squeeze bunt attempt to get DeLaite at home plate.

The Comrades added a pair in the fourth after a one-out error by Post 51 opened the door for DeLaite’s RBI single and Sam Huston’s sacrifice fly.

Two of the four runs Post 51 allowed were unearned.

Hillier cruised through the first five innings, needing just 53 pitches while allowing two singles and walking two.

“We certainly could have been a little more patient early,” Mercier said. “I felt like today we were kind of flat early. When we played these guys in the zone tournament (which Post 51 won), I think the atmosphere was a little more intense. But, maybe that’s because we’ve played a lot of baseball lately.”

Post 51 will have to play three more if it is to win the state title, starting with a win Saturday over Staples Crossing.

If Bangor beats Morrill Post in the other Saturday game (3 p.m.), the winner of the morning game will have its work cut out on Sunday if it is to knock the Comrades off their throne.

“That’s huge,” Cote said. “Now they’ve got to beat us twice.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33.


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