AUGUSTA — Less than two weeks ago, Joe Stanevicz had his left arm in a sling after feeling a twinge while pitching for Bangor in the American Legion Zone 1 baseball tournament.
But a little rest has done wonders for the recent Bangor High School graduate, who returned to the mound last Saturday to earn the win in relief as the Comrades qualified for the state tournament, then threw a nine-inning five-hitter Wednesday as coach Dave Morris’ club opened the 79th Maine American Legion baseball championships with a 4-2 win over Ramsdell-Rogers of York at McGuire Field.
“I felt great today,” said Stanevicz. “I felt like I was hitting my spots and keeping the ball low so they were beating it into the ground and my teammates made some great plays.”
The win advanced Zone 1 runnerup Bangor (21-6) to a winners bracket game at 4 p.m. Thursday against Morrill Post of South Portland, an 8-3 winner over Bessey Motors of South Paris.
Zone 1 champion Brewer (19-6) faces an elimination game at 10 a.m. against Fayette-Staples of Saco after dropping a 16-4, seven-inning decision to Augusta in Wednesday’s morning session.
Augusta will play defending state champion Gayton Post of Lewiston at 2 p.m., as Gayton improved its record to 22-0 with a 13-11 survival of Fayette-Staples.
Thursday’s other game will have Bessey Motors against Ramsdell-Rogers at 11 a.m.
Stanevicz struck out five batters and walked two while getting 16 ground-ball outs from a Bangor defense that featured shortstop Nic Cota.
Cota handled eight grounders flawlessly — including one double-play ball and a ninth-inning deflected grounder off third baseman Jack Stacey that he gathered in the shortstop hole and muscled a throw to first just in time to nip Ramsdell-Rogers baserunner Paul McDonough.
“Joe did a great job of keeping the ball low,” said Cota. “He’s come through in every game he’s pitched for us this year, and hopefully we can get a couple more Ws in this tournament so we can see him again.”
Ramsdell-Rogers, a team of players from York and Wells high schools making its first state tourney appearance, got solid pitching from righthander Chris Cole, who scattered six hits and allowed two earned runs over eight innings.
But Bangor’s Christian Corneil had two RBI singles, one with two out in the first inning and the second a bases-loaded hit to right-center to cap off a two-run rally in the top of the fifth that snapped a 2-2 tie.
“I knew I had to get it in the air somehow, that was my job with one out and the bases loaded,” said Corneil. “(Cole) threw it outside to me and I tried to go the other way with it. I expected it to be a sacrifice fly, but it dropped in and I’ll take that.”
Catcher Dylan Morris also had two hits for Bangor including an infield single that drove home Carl Farnham in the third inning, while leadoff hitter Cody McInnis scored twice.
Earlier in the day, Nick Lucas had five RBIs in the first three innings as Augusta backed righthander Ryan Minoty with an 18-hit attack in its win over Brewer.
“We’ve all hit the ball well this summer,” said Lucas, a third baseman who finished with two doubles, two singles and two runs scored to go with his RBIs. “We’ve been consistent one through nine. Everyone’s producing.”
Lucas had four RBIs in the top of the third inning alone on a two-run double and a two-run single as Augusta erupted for eight runs on eight hits to build its lead to 10-0.
Seven other players had two hits each as the Zone 2 champions secured their 18th consecutive victory.
Cory Lapierre added a two-run homer during the third-inning barrage against Brewer starter Evan Eldridge and reliever Tim Nason, and he also had an run-scoring single for coach Ray Vallee’s club.
“We’re scary when it comes to the at-bats right now,” said Minoty, who allowed just three hits over six innings of work. “Everyone on the team’s hitting, it’s everything I could ask for as a pitcher. We play good defense, and we’re absolutely crushing the ball right now.”
Pat McEwen led Brewer with a two-run double in the fourth inning and a single. Cody Farrell singled, walked and scored two runs for the Falcons, while Eric White and Jeremy Bissell each had a seventh-inning single off Edwards.
Augusta 118 213 0 — 16 18 2
Brewer 002 200 0 —4 5 5
Minoty, Edwards (7) and Burns, Ogren (7); Eldridge, Nason (3), Alexander (6), French (7) and Moore, Potter (7)
Bangor 101 020 000 — 4 6 1
Ramsdell-Rogers 010 100 000 — 2 5 2
Stanevicz and Morris; Cole, Todd (9) and Mercurio