Capital Area catcher Isaac Hayden tags Somerset’s Brayden Mayo at home during a Babe Ruth baseball game Thursday in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

AUGUSTA — A trip through the loser’s bracket of a double-elimination tournament is supposed to be daunting, with elimination a possibility in every game. Tell that, though, to the Capital Area 13-15 Babe Ruth team, which has apparently found comfort in such challenging circumstances.

Capital Area won its third straight game of the 13-15 Babe Ruth state tournament, beating Somerset 9-5 at Morton Field to set up a final game between the teams Friday at 2 p.m. at McGuire Field. The winner will take the Northern division title and move on to face Southern champion Portland in a best-of-three for the state title, with the first game being played Friday at 5 p.m.

“This team is starting to hit,” said Capital Area manager Mike Peacock, whose team has scored 20 runs in its last two games after combining for seven in its first two. “I don’t want to jinx myself, but it’s going to get scary if we keep hitting the baseball.”

Brayden Barbeau (two hits, three runs), Josh Bragg (two hits, four runs batted in), Noah Reed (double, triple, two RBI) and Hayden McMurtry (double, two runs) led the charge for Capital Area, which used a five-run fourth to put the game firmly in its control.

Capital Area’s Noah Reed, right, collides with Somerset’s Joe Ardito as he returns safely from a run down at second during a Babe Ruth baseball game on Thursday in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

“Our bats weren’t really in it (early),” said Barbeau, who also made a pair of exceptional defensive plays in center field. “But we got our bats going, and as you can see, we can do some damage.”

Somerset, which scored 21 runs while winning its first two games in the tournament, almost erased a fast Capital Area start and didn’t go quietly until the last two innings. Jake Benttinen hit a two-run home run and scored twice, while Colby Tibbetts (double) and Jake Thomas each had a hit and a run.

“We just felt like we were one or two hits away from bringing the game back to being a close game,” coach Mark Ardito said. “We know Augusta can hit, they hit better than we did today. I’ve got to hand it to them, they had a couple of big innings. They got their chance to break it open and they took advantage of that.”

Capital Area took a 3-0 lead in the first inning and added another run in the second, but Somerset rallied with two in the bottom of the second and another in the third to narrow the gap to 4-3.

Then Capital Area’s lineup broke out. With runners at second and third with one out, Barbeau lined a single to right, scoring Alex Trafton. McMurtry walked, loading the bases, and after a strikeout, Bragg’s single to center scored both Isaac Hayden and Barbeau to make it 7-3. The rally wasn’t finished, as Reed followed with a triple to deep center to score both McMurtry and Bragg to up the advantage to 9-3.

“This team has heart, we never give up,” Barbeau said. “I wasn’t surprised when we got that five-run inning. We’ve had that in us, it just hadn’t come out yet.”

Somerset had an answer of its own ready. Jayden Pooler walked to lead off the bottom half of the fourth, and Benttinen blasted a full-count offering over the 350-foot sign in left field to make it 9-5 and make it look like the Chargers weren’t finished.

“I wanted to help the team out, because we really needed some runs,” Benttinen said. “I like to hit full counts. I don’t feel stressed when I’m batting. … I wanted to take my chances at getting a hit and getting more than one run in.”

Somerset continued to threaten, getting runners at first and second with two outs in the fifth, but Barbeau made a sliding catch on a sinking liner by Mitchell Grant to keep the lead at four runs.

The Chargers went down in order in the sixth and seventh innings.

Capital Area took a 3-0 lead on an RBI single by Drew Kelley and a two-run single by Bragg, and added another in the second when Barbeau scored on McMurtry’s double.

Somerset scored two in the bottom half on Nate Love’s single.

Now it’s about the next game, which will pit these same teams against each other. This time, Somerset can’t afford a loss, but Ardito knows that with Tibbetts and Benttinen at full availability, he has the pitching left to give Capital Area his team’s best shot.

“Our depth of bullpen is really going to be something that we’re going to be focused on tomorrow,” Ardito said. “Along with our hitting, we like our chances.”

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