BANGOR, Maine — Faced with a must-win situation in at least one of its two games against Trenton on Saturday to extend its season, the Motor City American Legion baseball team found two different ways to win in securing a Zone 1 tournament berth.
Matt Enman and Jon Johnson combined for a three-hit shutout in the opener as coach Darrell Pluard’s team earned a 3-0 victory, while Motor City scored eight runs in the first four innings of the second game to earn an 8-6 win and finish the regular season with a 10-10 record.
The Bangor-based team will finish no worse than sixth in the final zone standings, and the top six teams qualify for the zone tournament that begins Thursday.
Trenton was 10-9 entering its final game at Brewer on Sunday evening.
“All year we’ve been playing to the level of other teams,” said Motor City shortstop Casey Hull. “Today we played well all day, and it was good because it showed us how well we can actually play as a team, and that’s good going into the playoffs because now we know what we’re capable of and we’re not going to play to other teams’ levels because we know how good we are.”
In the first game, Enman used nearly pinpoint control to stifle the Acadians through six innings.
The righthander threw just 75 pitches — 53 for strikes — in six innings, striking out seven batters while walking no one and hitting a batter.
“I came out hitting my spots early and was pretty consistent the whole game,” said Enman.
Enman faced two minor jams. Collin Ciomei hit a one-out triple in the second inning, but was stranded at third. In the fifth, Trenton had runners on first and second with one out, but a strikeout and a groundout ended that threat.
Johnson came on in the seventh and required just eight pitches to retire the side in order on three ground-outs.
Trenton’s Adam Kaspala pitched nearly as well, allowing one earned run in six innings. After yielding hard-hit balls to the first three batters he faced, Kaspala settled down thanks to some solid control of his own, He struck out two and walked three while throwing 78 pitches.
“I was a little scared in the first inning, but I started mixing my pitches and my curve ball was working,” said Kaspala.
Third baseman Ryan Carr was Motor City’s hitting star with two doubles.
Carr hit a one-out double to deep left field in the first inning, then went to third on a lineout to right by Nick Smith and scored as Nick Pooler reached first on a third-strike passed ball.
Carr added an RBI double in the fourth-to drive home Hull, who had hit a two-out single to right and was off on the pitch when Carr hit a hard shot just inside the third-base bag.
“It was a fastball down the middle and I just yanked it down the line and got a little lucky,” said Carr. “The third baseman was playing a little bit off the line and it got by him and Casey took off on the pitch and scored.”
Pooler scored Motor City’s final run in the fifth, reaching third when his single to center was misplayed and scoring on a wild pitch.
In the second game, Trenton jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. A leadoff infield hit by Kaspala, an RBI single to center by Mike Crowley and an RBI double to left by Ciomei gave the Acadians a 2-0 lead, and Ciomei later scored on a groundout by Will Clark.
But Hull sparked a three-run counterattack by Motor City in the bottom of the inning with a leadoff homer to left off Trenton starter Andrew Hodge.
Carr and Smith followed with singles, and Carr eventually scored from second on a passed ball while Smith came home on a sacrifice fly by Johnson to tie the game.
Motor City scored twice in the second to take a 5-3 lead, with Jared Theriault hitting a leadoff single and coming around to score on an infield grounder by Carr, while Hull reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and scored on a wild pitch.
Hodge hit a sacrifice fly in the third to cut the margin to 5-4, but Motor City scored twice on two hit batters, a walk and a sacrifice fly by Hull in the bottom of the inning.
The teams swapped unearned runs in the fourth to make it 8-5, but Johnson relieved Motor City starter Charlie Merritt in the fifth and allowed just one unearned run on two hits over the final three innings to earn his second save of the day.
“I was really nervous because we really needed those two games,” said Johnson, who also had two singles and a sacrifice fly in the second game. “Closing is really nerve-wracking, but it’s really also fun.”