Skowhegan catcher Cam Louder tags out Messalonskee’s James Smith (14) at the plate during a Class A North quarterfinal game in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

OAKLAND — Gage Morgan had a lucky role in the first rally for the Skowhegan baseball team.

His role in the second one was much more by design.

Morgan had a go-ahead two-run single in the top of the sixth, and the sixth-seeded River Hawks defeated No. 3 Messalonskee 6-4 in the Class A North quarterfinals Thursday afternoon.

Skowhegan, which trailed 4-1 after the third inning, won its second straight playoff game and improved to 13-5.

“We’ve been doing this quite a bit this year,” Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc said. “They never give up, they always fight back. I never count them out.”

Skowhega center fielder Jimmy Reed makes a diving catch in the first inning against Messalonskee during a Class A North quarterfinal game Thursday in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Messalonskee finished its season at 11-6. The Eagles had a chance to break a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the fifth when Mitchell Grant doubled to left center with Myles Hammond on first, but a perfect Skowhegan relay cut Hammond down at the plate.

“Our guys battled. They were battling the whole game,” said Eric Palin, who finished his first season as the Eagles’ head coach. “It happens. … I’ve also got to put a little bit of blame on myself. I got a couple of runners thrown out at home today, and that’s going to be tough for me to get over, myself.”

When the ball came off Grant’s bat and found the gap, it seemed like a given that Hammond would score. But center fielder Jimmy Reed — a defensive standout who had already thrown a runner out at the plate in the second — got the ball in quickly to shortstop Tyler Annis, and Annis fired a strike to catcher Cam Louder in time for the out.

“When I got the ball, I figured (Hammond) was already going to be there,” Annis said. “I got it and I heard everyone say ‘Throw it home! Throw it home!’ I got it, I saw that he was just tagging third, so I turned around and threw it as hard as I could.”

Skowhegan shortstop Tyler Annis fields a ground ball against Messalonskee during a Class A North quarterfinal game Thursday in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“We ‘re going to live and die with him at short,” LeBlanc said. “He’s going to make his mistakes, he made a couple today, but he’s just a competitor. He’s always fighting back, and he’s going after the next ball as hard as he can.”

That set the stage for Morgan in the sixth, after Quintcey McCray walked with two outs and Annis singled. The right fielder had popped up in a similar spot in the fourth with two on and two out, but an error on the play allowed two runs to score.

“You can’t draw those ones up,” Morgan said, “but you take them where they fall.”

This time, Morgan’s hit was clean, a line drive to right that found a gap and allowed both runners to come in and put the River Hawks ahead.

“Throughout the season, I’ve had one extra-base hit,” he said. “I always put the bat on the ball; in fact, I use a bat that’s more dead than other bats, just because I like to hit the ball in a certain spot. I can place the ball better. … (I was) trying to hit a line drive, trying to hit a ground ball, because I know the guys in front of me are faster than lightning.”

Skowhegan took a 1-0 lead on a Reed single in the second, but Messalonskee took a 3-1 lead in the bottom half on a two-run single by James Smith and an RBI single by Joe Ardito, and then went ahead 4-1 in the third on an RBI single from Jacob Thomas.

Skowhegan got three runs in the fourth on a groundout by Annis and then the error. The River Hawks kept the Eagles where they were, thanks to relief work from Jackson Quinn, who allowed one run on four hits in five innings.

Smith started for the Eagles and went 5.2 innings, allowing seven hits and four earned runs while striking out five.

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