AUGUSTA — His team had flirted with elimination, but Capital Area coach Mike Peacock kept returning to the same phrase: Just wait until we start hitting.

On Wednesday, his team showed just what he had been talking about.

Capital Area advanced to the winner’s bracket final in the North division of the 13-15 Babe Ruth state tournament, beating Saco Bay Blue, 11-1, in five innings at Morton Field.

Capital Area will play the Somerset Chargers, who beat Saco Bay Blue earlier in the afternoon 12-2, today at 5 p.m. Capital Area will need to win twice to move on to the best-of-three state final.

“That is exactly what this team is all about,” Peacock said. “If we hit, we’ll do just fine.”

The team hadn’t been hitting, which was why it lost to Saco Bay Blue and then had to rally past Franklin County, managing a total of six hits over the two contests. But it was a different story Wednesday, as Josh Bragg (three hits, four RBIs) and Drew Kelley (three hits, three runs, RBI) led a lineup that churned out 11 hits and scored four runs in both the third and fourth innings to put the game out of reach.

“Everybody was in that mentality, (that state) of mind. We just went out there and put the bat on the ball,” Bragg said. “It just went our way. That’s what we usually do, but it didn’t click the first game. Finally we came out, firing at every pitch we saw.”

It wasn’t an accident. Peacock favors a more patient approach at the plate, but said he listened to coach Joe Lajoie’s suggestion to get more aggressive in hopes of lighting a spark.

“When we got here, I (told) them, ‘Let’s start thinking about maybe (swinging) at the first pitch,’ ” Peacock said. “When you have a good-hitting team and they’re not hitting, you have to go at them quicker.”

The plan worked immediately. Kelley hit a 1-1 pitch for a two-out triple to right and scored on Bragg’s double to left on a 1-0 offering, putting Capital Area ahead 1-0 in the first. After hitting the ball harder in two at-bats than they had in two days, the players were starting to get the feeling that this game was going to be different.

“Right when that happened, I knew we were going to show up and be ready to play,” Kelley said.

Capital Area built on that sentiment in the third, getting runs on RBI singles by Hayden McMurtry (two RBIs) and Kelley and a two-run double from Bragg. In the fourth, Capital Area went up 9-0 on an RBI single from Isaac Hayden, a groundout from Brayden Barbeau, a sacrifice fly from McMurtry and another run-scoring hit from Bragg.

“That ball looked like a beach ball to me,” Bragg said. “I was just trying to hit that ball as hard as I could. Finally, my swing came back, I got out of a slump and now I’m feeling it at the plate.”

Saco Bay Blue — which was taxed by having to play two games with only nine players — inched closer in the fourth when Gavin Sperlick walked and eventually scored on Garrett Dupee’s single to right, but the chance to possibly get back into the game was cut short when a baserunning error turned James Erickson’s lineout into a double play.

Capital Area’s lead reached double digits in the fifth when Alex Trafton’s sacrifice fly brought in Sam Shaffer and Liam Perfetto scored on a wild pitch.

Overshadowed by the offense was a pitching effort consisting of Hayden (three innings), Connor O’Neil (two) and McMurtry (one) that gave Capital Area its second straight combined one-hitter.

“I’m using different kids. It’s not like I’m going with two or three pitchers here,” Peacock said. “I’ve got all kinds of arms. Tomorrow night, you know, maybe it won’t work. But I’m just saying, we have all kinds of arms.”

Those pitchers will face a steep challenge in Somerset, which is 2-0 in the tournament and has beaten its opponents by a combined score of 21-7. With a pair of emphatic wins, the Chargers have a fresh and rested team, and a confident one at that.

“Hitting is our strength. We’re an aggressive team, we swing the bat, and that’s basically our gameplan,” coach Mark Ardito said. “Eighty percent of this team has played together for many years, they’ve stuck together and they’ve got a ton of experience. They’ve been in these big games before.”

Jake Thomas (two hits, two runs, two RBIs) and Mitchell Grant (two hits, three RBIs, run) were the big hitters Wednesday, while Joe Ardito had a hit and scored three runs and Jacob Benttinen had a hit and scored twice.

Somerset led only 5-1 going into the bottom of the fifth, but used a five-run inning to break open the game.

“We started off really strong, really confident, and we’re going to continue through that way,” Coach Ardito said. “We’ve got a well-rounded team and we try to utilize all the tools as much as we can.”


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