OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine — Left-hander Harry Ridge pitched a four-hitter as First Title of Portland defeated Bangor 9-1 in a winners’ bracket game of the American Legion baseball state tournament at The Ballpark on Thursday evening.
Ridge, a 2012 graduate of Cheverus High School who will attend Bowdoin College this fall, struck out seven, walked no one and hit a batter during a 116-pitch effort that concluded amid heavy fog that rolled in from the nearby ocean to make life miserable for defensive players from both teams over the final three innings.
“I was just trying to establish my fastball early, and that was working for me,” said Ridge. “It was nice and hot so I loosened up as the game went on, and my curveball started off tight and bounced in the dirt a lot, but then it started falling into the strike zone so I worked it in.”
Ridge, who hadn’t pitched in more than a week, did not allow an earned run and yielded only singles to Bryan Rouleau in the third inning, Nic Cota in the fourth, Curtis Worcester in the eighth and Dylan Morris in the ninth.
“That’s the most efficient game he’s pitched in terms of number of pitches over nine innings,” said First Title manager Mac McKew. “And that’s a major bonus in a tournament like this when your pitchers throw nine innings.”
Zone 4 runner-up First Title (18-7) will play Zone 3 runner-up Windham in a matchup of the two remaining unbeatens in the double-elimination event at 7 p.m. Friday after the Merchants (18-6) defeated Saco-Biddeford Savings of Westbrook 6-0 in Thursday’s third game of the day.
Friday’s three-game schedule begins with two more elimination games, with two-time defending state champion Pastime Club of Lewiston (20-3) facing Westbrook (17-6) at noon and Zone 2 champion Post 51 of Oakland-Fairfield (19-3) against Zone 1 champion Bangor (20-3) at 3:30 p.m.
Post 51 stayed alive with a 6-1 victory over Fayette-Staples of Saco that eliminated the Zone 5 champions, though Fayette-Staples will still play in next week’s Northeast Regional at Old Orchard Beach as the host team.
Pastime Club eliminated Zone 2 runner-up Gardiner 13-1 in 6 1/2 innings.
Tyler Flaherty had a triple and three singles to pace First Title’s 16-hit offense, while Peter Potthoff doubled and singled twice, Drew Ferrick doubled twice, Nick Lops tripled and singled, and Felix del Vecchio singled twice.
“We’ve been hitting the baseball,” said McKew. “We hit the ball yesterday [a 9-1 win over Pastime Club] and we hit it today. It’s all good.”
First Title, comprised entirely of Cheverus players, scratched out a run on three hits — including an RBI single to left by Flaherty — off Bangor starter Greg Duff in the bottom of the first to take a 1-0 lead.
Mitchell Powers walked to lead off the First Title second and advanced to third when neither Bangor shortstop Carl Farnham nor second baseman Cota could decide who should play a double-play grounder up the middle by del Vecchio that ended up as a single to center field.
Duff got Cam Mullen to pop out, but Louie DiStasio singled to left to drive home Powers and Del Vecchio scored on a fielder’s choice grounder by Ridge to make it a 3-0 game.
First Title extended its lead to 5-0 with two runs in the fourth. DiStasio reached on a one-out infield error — after Bangor right fielder Seth Freudenberger threw out Mullen as he rounded first base on a leadoff single — and scored when Lops lined an opposite-field triple to left. Lops then scored on a groundout by Ridge.
Del Vecchio added an RBI single off Bangor reliever Brendan Moore in the fifth to stretch the margin to 6-0.
Bangor got on the board with an unearned run in the eighth. Worcester hit a leadoff single to left and went to second when the ball was misplayed in the outfield. A groundout by Freudenberger advanced Worcester to third, and a groundout to second by Rouleau delivered the Comrades’ lone run.
First Title added three runs on four hits in the bottom of the inning — with three of the hits going for extra bases after being lost in the fog by Bangor outfielders.
“It was tough at the end,” said McKew. “I felt bad for Bangor, I couldn’t see half of those baseballs. I’m glad their guys hit ground balls because if you get it up in the air it’s tough. I’m surprised we kept playing, but the umpires own the game and it’s their decision. It’s easy for me to say now.”