SOUTH PORTLAND — Opening day at the state American Legion baseball tournament was picture perfect for Zone 1 entries Brewer and Bangor.
Brewer rode the six-hit pitching of Kyle McLain to a 5-2 victory over Augusta while Bangor pulled away for an 11-4 win over Gardiner at the Wainwright Complex.
Bangor (19-4) will play defending state champion Nova Seafood of Portland (18-3) in a 2 p.m. winners’ bracket game Thursday, while Brewer (16-5) will face Gayton Post of Lewiston (19-3) at 4 p.m.
McLain (6-1) pitched a complete-game six-hitter and was at his best late, retiring 11 of the last 12 batters he faced.
“I had good command of my fastball so that helped me get a lot of ground-ball outs,” said McLain, who had four strikeouts. “I really wasn’t trying to strike anybody out, I was just trying to pitch to contact.”
McLain was backed by a near flawless Brewer defense — McLain made his team’s lone error on an errant pickoff throw — yet the Falcons trailed 2-1 entering the bottom of the fifth when they loaded the bases with two outs on walks to Brandon Gendreau and McLain around a single by Chase Daniels.
That brought up Jordan Richards, who lofted a 1-1 pitch to left field for what looked like a routine fly ball. But with the wind blowing out, the ball carried back and Augusta outfielder Cory Clarke soon lost sight of it in the high, clear sky.
All three runners scored, Richards had an unlikely double and Brewer had a sudden 4-2 lead.
“I wasn’t very happy when I hit it,” said Richards. “I thought it was just going to be a popup, but the wind was blowing out and it just kept going, and obviously when it went over the guy’s head I was pretty excited.
Augusta tried to rally in the sixth, getting the first two runners aboard.
But Brewer’s third baseman Eric White dove to catch a bunt down the line by Clarke, then Gendreau made a diving stop of a grounder by Corey LaPierre near second base to produce the second out before McLain retired Jordan Conant on an inning-ending flyout.
“I knew he was going to bunt because it was a definite bunt situation,” said White. “I have to charge if it’s hit hard, and I saw it go up in the air off the bat so I started charging and luckily I dove and caught it.
“Then Brandon made a great play on the next play.”
Brewer added an insurance run in the seventh on an RBI double by McLain.
Richards and Tyler French each had two hits for Brewer, while Charlie Partridge singled twice for Augusta.
“We’ve been stressing this last week and a half that pitching and defense is what wins you games,” said Brewer coach Chris Morris. “We didn’t exactly hit the cover off the ball today, but we pitched well and played defense.”
In the earlier game, Nate Lewis relieved Bangor starter Joe Stanevicz with the bases loaded and no one out in the seventh and the Comrades clinging to a 7-4 lead.
And the side-arming lefthander emerged unscathed, getting Ryan Leach to hit a comebacker to the mound for a 1-2-3 double play before leftfielder Jordan Clarke ranged toward the left-center field gap to catch Nick Mashino’s inning-ending fly ball.
“I get excited in those situations,” said Lewis. “I used to do it for the high school my junior and senior years so I’m used to it, and I think it’s fun to be in those positions.
“I didn’t want to give them anything that they could possibly put in the outfield and get another run. I was just trying to keep it away from them and mixing it up as much as possible.”
Bangor then broke the game open in the top of the eighth, sending nine batters to the plate and scoring four runs. Two hit batsmen — one to Devin Lyshon with the bases loaded — and two walks — one to Dylan Morris with the bases loaded — helped fuel the rally, which also featured an RBI single by Christian Corneil and Josiah Hartley’s second double of the day, a two-run drive to left.
“Coach told me anything up in the zone to try to hit deep to score the runner from third,” said Hartley. “The game was pretty close at that point, and we just needed to spread it open.”
Hartley finished with three RBIs, while Morris singled twice with a RBI, Lyshon drove home two runs with a groundout and his hit by pitch, and Cody McInnis was hit by a pitch twice, singled and scored three runs.
For the game, four Gardiner pitchers issued eight walks and hit four Bangor batters to go along with four errors.
Compare that to the Bangor duo of Stanevicz (8-2) and Lewis, who combined to walk just two batters and hit no one while backed by a defense that committed just one error.
“You try to capitalize on mistakes and make good things happen,” said Bangor coach Dave Morris, whose team scored four unearned runs off Leach in the first three innings while building a 5-0 lead. “I thought in that first three innings we’d try to score as many runs as we can, and the kids did a great job of capitalizing on those situations.”
Bangor (19-4) 203 000 240 — 11 8 1
Gardiner (16-7) 000 202 000 — 4 9 4
Stanevicz, Lewis (7) and Morris; Leach, Martin (6), Cray (7), Allen (8) and Phelps
Augusta (17-7) 110 000 000 — 2 6 2
Brewer (16-5) 100 030 10x — 5 7 1
Minoty, Beland (8) and Burns; McLain and Richards