Balanced field enters Legion postseason fray

Posted July 15, 2011, at 8:14 p.m.

American Legion baseball coaches Dave Morris of the Bangor Comrades and Chris Morris of the Brewer Falcons both are talking about how wide open they expect the Zone 1 tournament to be once it starts this weekend at Husson University in Bangor.

Now given the fact that top-ranked Bangor (17-4) and second-seeded Brewer (16-5) not only have a combined 33-9 record this summer but also represented the zone at last year’s state tournament, it’s easy to think the kind words they have espoused about the other teams in the tourney is mostly an effort avoid giving those rivals any additional motivation.

But in this case I think they’re right. Bangor and Brewer have been the class of the zone so far this summer, but it hasn’t been an overwhelming dominance that suggests no one else is capable of denying them a berth in the Zone 1 championship game.

Third-place Hampden (14-7) and No. 4 Motor City (13-8) both have beaten Bangor twice this season, and even fifth-seeded Lincoln (10-11) has enough quality pitching at the top of its rotation to beat any opponent on a given day.

Ultimately this tournament will come down to pitching depth, as teams used to playing seven-inning games — save for the nine-inning Sunday contests during the regular season — now must play nine-inning games throughout postseason play.

That means in many cases even the winning teams will have to dig deep into their bullpens to preserve late leads, so it won’t be enough just to have one or two front-line pitchers to carry the load.

And some unpredictability has been part of the Zone 1 tournament in recent years, with one No. 3 seed, two No. 4 seeds and one No. 5 seed qualifying for states in the last four years alone.

One darkhorse candidate to advance this year may be No. 4 Motor City, which has won seven of its last eight games and nine of 11 since getting off to a slow start.

Coach Dave Utterback’s club, which plays its home games at Husson, is more accustomed to the speed of the artificial surface at the Winkin Complex than the other entries in the zone tournament field, and the team has a solid middle of the lineup to go with decent pitching depth.

Of course, first Motor City must survive Saturday night’s play-in game against Lincoln — and the Lumber won all three games in their regular-season series this summer.

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