Neither Fairfield Post 14 Junior Legion coach Rusty Mercier nor Messalonskee Loons coach Ray Bernier had high expectations coming into the season. Both coaches knew their teams were young, and were just hoping to gain experience.

Yet, when the state tournament begins at Bangor’s Mansfield Stadium Thursday, both Fairfield and Messalonskee will be in the eight team field.

Fairfield (12-5) opens the tournament Thursday at 5 p.m. against Yarmouth. Messalonskee (11-8) takes on Thirsty Turf (Cheverus) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The double elimination tournament runs through the 31st. Other participating teams are Hampden, Topsham, Rogers Post, and Bangor.

“I didn’t know what to expect. We had a really young team last summer. (Making the tournament) really wasn’t something I was expecting, to be honest,” Mercier said. “Our team chemistry’s been great.”

Messalonskee also is young, with a few players who saw varsity time playing for Messalonskee High School in the spring. The Loons advanced with a 4-3 upset win over Motor City, a team made up of players from Orono, Old Town, Brewer, and John Bapst high schools.

“I told the guys, we’re getting experience and depth. “We’d been preaching that we have to learn how to win.”

Shortstop Dylan Cunningham, first baseman Ben Hellen, and catcher Carter Lambert have been key players for Messalonskee, Bernier said, along with pitcher-second baseman Andrew Mayo and utility player Joe Ardito, who will not be a freshman at Messalonskee until this fall. Mayo is Messalonskee’s likely starting pitcher Friday, Bernier said.

Fairfield’s roster consists of 13 players from Lawrence High School, with two from Waterville and two from Maine Central Institute. Three hitter David Barre has played a number of positions, Mercier said. Center fielder Kody Vallee has been good in the leadoff spot, with shortstop Dylan Coombs productive in the two hole. Catcher Nate Bickford has been strong, Mercier said, as has pitcher Nick Robertson (4-0).

“The team is 5-0 when Nick starts,” Mercier said. “Defensively as a catcher, Nate’s had an outstanding year.”

SENIOR LEGION

Augusta will play a state tournament play-in game against Staples Crossing of South Berwick on Thursday at 5 p.m. in Gorham, weather permitting. Augusta, of Zone 2, sank Rogers Post 9-2 in Auburn on Monday to earn a spot in the play-in game. The winner will play defending state champion Bangor Coffee News in a state tournament game at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Husson University.

Each zone will send two teams to the state tournament, although Zone 1 will have three because it hosts the five-day tournament at Husson.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczylMTM

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