AUBURN — In the American Legion playoffs, pitch counts are everything.

Rogers Post used one of its top pitchers in Damien St. Pierre in relief in the fourth inning of the first round of the playoffs, and he threw 17 pitches while his team held a one-run lead over the Capitals. In the bottom of the inning, Rogers scored a run on a Gavin Bates single, which was followed by a three-run home run by Giles Paradie to give Rogers a five-run lead, one they only built on en route to a 15-4 victory in six innings.

“It was one of those situations where we were trying to figure out pitch counts and if we had to ride Damien to get by this round,” said Rogers head coach Dave Jordan, whose team led 5-4 when St. Pierre entered. “That home run gave us just enough of a cushion where we were able to see what we could do with some other guys. Being able to do that and then end the game and not have to play the last half inning was huge for us.”

In the top of the third inning, after both the Capitals and Rogers had combined for just two hits, Cole Lawrence drove a double into right field, which was followed by singles from Gus Hunt and Chandler Moore. Next up was Isaac Eastler, who hit a two-run double to take an early lead. Adam Eastler hit a single next and later scored on a passed ball from pitcher Ben Cassidy, which was followed by a single from Garett Lunt that drove in Isaac Eastler.

Rogers faced an early four-run deficit, so they turned to small ball to get some base runners. The first three batters reached base on bunts, the third coming from Oren Shaw and scoring Cassidy. Blanchard was next, slapping a single to center that scored another run. Mason Brushwein hit a double to right-center that scored two to tie it at 4. Later in the inning, Tim Albert reached base on an error that also scored Brushwein for a 5-4 lead.

St. Pierre was sent in after Cassidy’s three innings of four-run ball, but being a possible starter for Saturday’s matchup with Bessey Motors, Jordan wanted to keep his pitches low. Paradie knew that St. Pierre would keep Rogers afloat long enough to get some more insurance runs.

“Once we realized that we had it I felt the momentum shift,” Paradie said. “Once we got it we just had to hold it. He got us a good amount of outs and then he took the ball and secured it.”

St. Pierre threw just 30 pitches in his two innings of work, leaving him eligible to pitch Saturday. Paradie’s home run in the fourth was the relief Rogers really needed.

“I was going up and wanting to hit,” Paradie said. “I was just telling myself, ‘Hit a line drive, hit a line drive.’ (Former Rogers player) Mickey Lawrence actually told me, ‘If you focus on hitting line drives then eventually it will just go,’ and I guess this one just went. I didn’t expect it and then I hit it and saw it. … It felt great, phenomenal.”

Albert entered the game in the top of the sixth with a five-run lead and quickly loaded the bases on three singles. Albert was able to strike out the next two batters and got Moore to fly out to right field to get out of the jam.

Brushwein walked and Bates doubled to start the sixth, followed by an intentional walk of Paradie. St. Pierre drove in a run with a single, which was followed by another run on a walk. The sixth was capped off by Blanchard’s long drive to right-center, which bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double to end the game.

Rogers knows it’s entering its second round matchup with Bessey at a disadvantage, as Bessey didn’t play Friday due to Franklin County forfeiting their scheduled game, but they’re entering Saturday confidently.

“We know Bessey well,” Jordan said. “They are well-rested and have everyone available so we are going to go up there and go play and compete. I love how our guys are competing right now and whoever we have available is who we’ll take and go give it our best shot.”

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