BANGOR — Durable starting pitching is pivotal to success during postseason play in American Legion baseball, where the seven-inning games that make up most of the regular season become nine-inning marathons and there are no days off between contests.
Kyle McLain gave second-seeded Brewer a quality start of the highest order in the Falcons’ Zone 1 tournament opener Sunday afternoon, scattering six hits during a complete-game effort as coach Chris Morris’ club defeated No. 3 Hampden 7-2.
The victory advances Brewer (17-5) to Monday’s 7 p.m. winners’ bracket game against No. 4 Motor City of Bangor. Motor City (15-8) edged No. 5 Lincoln 9-8 in a play-in game Saturday night and then knocked off top-seeded Bangor in its opening game of the four-team, double-elimination phase of the tournament on Sunday evening.
Hampden (14-8) will face Bangor (17-4) in an elimination game at 4 p.m. Monday.
McLain was touched up for two runs on five hits over the first 2 1/3 innings, but he limited the River Dogs to just one hit over the final 6 2/3 innings — at one point retiring 13 of 14 batters he faced.
The righthander struck out six and walked three during a 121-pitch performance.
“The first couple of innings I was getting a lot of my pitches up in the zone and they were making me pay,” said McLain, a recent Brewer High School graduate who is now 5-1 this summer. “So I just tried to keep it down and went with more offspeed stuff and let my defense do the work.”
That defense came up with an errorless performance, turning two double plays and getting some stellar play from middle infielders Brandon Gendreau and Cody Farrell as well as sliding catches from left fielder Tyler French and center fielder Blake Birmingham.
“They make my job a whole lot easier,” said McLain. “I just have to pound the strike zone because those guys don’t make a lot of errors.”
Cleanup hitter Evan Eldridge led Brewer’s 11-hit attack with a double, single, three RBIs, two runs scored and two stolen bases. French, Eldridge’s former Bucksport High School teammate, had three infield singles and scored twice from the leadoff spot in the order, while No. 9 batter Pat McEwen hit a two-run double in the bottom of the second to stake the Falcons to a 2-0 lead.
Hampden got to McLain for both of its runs in the top of the third, with back-to-back doubles by Evan Kingsbury and Justin Rodgerson producing one run and Rodgerson scoring the tying run on a single by Derrick Bernosky.
Brewer took the lead for good against Hampden starter Jared Seamans in the bottom of the third as Eldridge singled, stole second after initially being picked off, went to third on a groundout by McLain and scored on Nick Moore’s opposite-field single to left.
The Falcons broke the game open an inning later, scoring three runs thanks to two Hampden errors and a two-run ground single to right by Eldridge.
Brewer added an insurance run in the eighth as French singled, stole second, was sacrificed to third by Gendreau and scored on a groundout by Eldridge.
Bernosky led Hampden offensively with three singles, while Seamans allowed four earned runs on 10 hits over seven innings on the mound for coach Nick Arthers’ River Dogs.
In Sunday’s late game, Motor City scored four runs in the top of the fourth inning to snap a 2-2 tie en route to defeating Bangor for the third time in four meetings this season.
Ryan Carr’s two-run single down the left field line off Bangor starter Joe Stanevicz sparked that rally, and Carr later scored on a two-out single by Sean O’Donnell.
Righthander Zak Kochis scattered seven hits while striking out six and walking five for Motor City.
Casey Estes paced Motor City’s 14-hit attack with three singles and three RBIs, while Chris Hammond, Phil Benoit, Max Andrews, Cameron Archer and Carr had two hits apiece.
Cody McInnis tripled, doubled and singled with an RBI for Bangor.
(Sunday’s First Game)
Hampden 002 000 000 — 2 6 3
Brewer 021 300 00x — 7 11 0
Seamans and Frederick; McLain and Moore. 2B—Kingsbury, Rodgerson; McEwen; Repeat hitters: Bernosky 3; French 3, Eldridge
(Sunday’s Second Game)
Motor City 002 410 122 — 12 14 0
Bangor 002 000 000 — 2 7 3
Kochis and Cross; Stanevicz, Rouleau (4), Duff (8) and Morris, Stanhope (9). 2B—Carr; McInnisl 3B-McInnis. Repeat hitters: Estes 3, Hammond, Benoit, Andrews, Archer, Carr; McInnis 3