AUGUSTA, Maine — The opening day of the Maine State American Legion Tournament couldn’t have gone much better for Zone 1 champion Bangor, but the same couldn’t be said for Zone 1 runner-up Hampden.
The Zone 1 champions put it all together with strong pitching, solid defense and a relentless hitting attack and drubbed Zone 5 champ Advanced Technologies of Biddeford 14-3 to start things off Wednesday morning.
Hampden had defending champ Nova Seafood of Portland on the ropes before Nova edged the River Dogs 6-4 courtesy of a seventh-inning two-run home run Wednesday evening.
Bangor (20-5) will take on Smith Tobey of Bath, a 7-6 winner over Waterville at 2 p.m. today. Hampden (17-8) will meet Kennebunk in an 11 a.m. elimination game.
In the first game, starting pitcher Joe Stanevicz pitched six innings of six-hit ball, throwing 52 of 72 pitches for strikes; his defense was stellar with three double plays, and his offense banged out 15 hits.
“The hits and all the runs I got really helped me a lot on the mound with my confidence,” said Stanevicz, who paired a looping curve with his best pitch (fastball) to stay ahead of hitters all game long. “I was a little nervous, but after the first inning, I just went out there to throw strikes and let my defense do the work.”
Bangor jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first via six hits, an error, and a walk. Biddeford starter Trevor Fleurent lasted just five batters before being lifted after giving up four hits without an out.
Shane Walton, Jordan Clarke and Lonnie Hackett each went 3-for-4 and combined for nine RBIs to lead the offense for the 20-5 Comrades.
Walton tripled in a run in the first, singled, and blasted a 410-foot shot to dead center in the fifth for a three-run home run.
“That first inning really made a statement for the rest of the game. It put a damper on them, that’s for sure,” said Walton. “We worked the pitchers well. I think it was just us being patient at the plate and getting the pitches we want, staying off that curveball early in the count and waiting on the fastball.”
Clarke doubled twice, singled, and drove in three runs while Hackett had three singles and two RBIs.
“These guys were focused and ready to come here,” said Bangor manager Fred Lower, who credited a backward, lunging, over-the-shoulder catch by Hackett to make the third out in the top of the first with firing up the squad early. “He was tracking it, but I didn’t think he was going to get to it, and he was sliding, but he came up with it.”
The Comrades didn’t let up the pressure, scoring twice more in the second with a Clarke two-run double, two in the fourth, and four in the fifth.
Meanwhile, Stanevicz was in a good rhythm on the mound, striking out six batters and walking just one while giving up six hits to improve his record to 5-0.
“He pitched for me in JV baseball at Bangor, so I knew he’d be solid because he dominated at the JV level,” said Lower. “He just has an aura about him. He doesn’t get rattled.”
Scott Callahan led 17-6 Biddeford with two singles and two RBIs.
In the day’s final game, Matt Watson greeted relief pitcher Connor Perry with a two-run homer after Perry relieved older brother Brennan with no outs and one on in the seventh. One of only four hits by Nova was the difference in a marathon game lasting nearly three hours.
The blast handed Hampden starter Brennan Perry (4-3) a tough loss as he threw 117 pitches over six-plus innings on three days rest.
“Brennan came out, battled a blister on his finger for most of the game, and we didn’t really want to go that long with him, but all our other guys are battling short rest too and he wanted to go back out,” said Hampden head coach Jason Folsom. “This one is painful, just because we had them.”
Brennan Perry struck out 10 batters, but also hit three batters and walked seven, four of which went on to score. Only two of the five runs he was charged with were earned.
“It was pretty painful for him to throw his curve, which is his out pitch, so he had to go away from it and I think they were starting to sit on his fastball,” Folsom said.
Nova drew first blood with a run in the first without the benefit of a hit as Matt Powers led off with a walk and moved all the way to third on an errant pickoff throw by Brennan Perry. He came home as Watson was involved in a rundown after being picked off first base.
Hampden came back with three runs in the third, thanks to a couple of center-field gap shots that found some swampy, slippery turf in left center. Jordan Richards led off with a double that bounced off the glove of Nova center fielder Jack Heary’s glove as Heary slipped on the wet grass. He then scored after the left fielder’s subsequent infield throw sailed wide and into the Hampden dugout.
After a Perry walk, Nolan Turner roped a sinking liner to that same swampland in left center to put runners at second and third. A Cody Johndro sacrifice fly to center moved both runners a base over and Shawn Smith scored Turner with a single down the left-field line.
Nova got a run back in the third on Heary’s leadoff single, a two-base wild pitch, and a passed ball; and tied it in the fourth — again without a hit. After two straight strikeouts, Sam Balzano walked, stole second, and — following another walk — scored on a double steal aided by a Perry wild pitch.
The River Dogs took a 4-3 lead in the fifth on a one-out error, a Derek Amoroso single, and Cody Miller’s RBI single to left center.
Nova would tie it in the fifth, again without a hit, as Regan Flaherty reached on a one-out fielder’s choice, stole second, stole third on a double steal after Taylor Candage walked, and scored on a passed ball during a strikeout.
Smith Tobey (15-6) 100 010 320 — 7 13 1
Waterville (13-9) 202 101 000 — 6 11 4
Farrell and Wallace; Sucy, Bishop (7) and Chaput
Biddeford (16-5) 010 000 2 — 3 9 2
Bangor (20-5) 620 240 x — 14 15 1
Fleurent, Liverier (1), Cadorette (4), Vengeful (5) and Aube; Stanevicz, Wood (7) and Morris
Hampden (17-8) 003 010 000 — 4 8 2
Nova Seafood (18-3) 101 110 20x — 6 4 3
B. Perry, C. Perry (7), Amoroso (8) and Miller; Candage, Powers (5) and Watson
Kennebunk (14-8) 000 000 01 — 1 5 0
Gardiner (14-5) 020 002 26 — 12 13 9
Donvan, Knox (7) and Rollins; Chadwick and Wheelock