AUGUSTA — Rogers Post manager Dave Jordan took a big gamble and won.

In an elimination game, the team from Auburn gave a rookie pitcher his first American Legion start and kept the game tied into the bottom of the eighth.

That’s when Rogers Post right fielder Gavin Bates delivered a two-run double to the right-center gap to break the game open and eventually send Rogers to a 6-3 win over Skowhegan.

“That one swing got us,” Skowhegan manager Roger Stinson said. “But they’ve got nothing to hang their heads about. You can’t ask for more from a group of kids. I’ll go to battle with these guys any time.”

With the teams tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth, Rogers’ Drew Lashua reached on an error and was bunted to second. Grant Hartley walked to set the stage for Bates, who sliced the second pitch he saw deep into the gap to break the tie.

But the key for Rogers was how they got there.

Faced with a decision between burning a starting pitcher for the rest of the tournament and giving a rookie his first start in a state tournament elimination game, Jordan handed the ball to Tyler Libby for the first time.

Libby went 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs, two earned.

“He’s been our top pitcher on the junior varsity all season, and he’s just a great young man who was waiting his turn,” Jordan said. “We sat down last night and talked about it and we just decided if we were gonna go for it, we were gonna go for it, and it paid off.”

Libby did not light any radar guns aflame, but he was consistently down in the zone and hit the corner low and away to right handed hitters.

“The kid pitched really well,” Stinson said. “We’ve struggled with that kind of pitching all year and we did a little bit today.”

Jordan was happy with his young starter and also happy to have innings left on his other starters.

“You try always to show confidence in kids,” Jordan said. “If they know you believe in them, sometimes they do a great job.”

The teams appeared to be locked in a pitchers duel until a scary moment for Skowhegan came with the last batter of the fourth inning.

Post 16 starting pitcher Dustin Crawford induced a roller back up the middle, but turned his ankle trying to field it himself. He crumpled to the mound in obvious pain.

“We’re hoping it was just a high ankle sprain,” Stinson said. “I think they’ll probably go get it X-rayed to be sure, but we’re hoping that’s what it was.”

Ethan Brown took the ball from there for Skowhegan and threw well, holding Rogers Post off the board until the eighth.

Crawford helped his own cause at the plate before his injury, cracking an RBI double to open the scoring in the top of the third. Rogers Post answered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the frame.

The team from Auburn took the lead in the fifth on an RBI groundout. But Post 16 answered in the sixth.

Catcher Will Stinson led off with a walk and went to second on Chase Malloy’s single. Stinson then took third on a wild pitch and scored on Mike Berry’s single.

Adam Turcotte and Malloy each had two hits for Post 16.

Skowhegan Post 16 finishes the state tournament 2-2 and the season 18-12.

“From what I have been told, this is the first time in almost 25 years a team from Skowhegan has made it this far here,” Stinson said. “I’m just as proud as I can be of these guys.”

Josh Linehan — 621-5640 [email protected]

Twitter: @joshlinehan

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