BANGOR, Maine — Perhaps it’s fitting that this year’s American Legion baseball state tournament is coming north to the Queen City for the first time since 2005.
Six of the eight teams in the double-elimination event that begins Wednesday at the Winkin Complex on the campus of Husson University have their roots in Eastern Maine Class A high school programs.
Zone 1 tournament champion Brewer (16-6) and runner-up Bangor (18-4), Zone 2 champion Post 51 of Oakland (10-11) and runner-up Franklin County of Farmington (12-8), and Zone 3 champion Bessey Motors of South Paris (18-3) and runner-up Pastime Club of Lewiston (16-5) all are familiar foes from the high school season.
Of those teams, five advanced to the Eastern Maine Class A playoffs, with Bangor defeating Messalonskee of Oakland in the regional final en route to winning the state championship.
“Obviously having the high school season we had — and we don’t have the total complement of players we had from that team — we’re confident in what we have here,” said Bangor coach Dave Morris, whose team will seek to win its first state Legion title since 1979.
Only Brewer did not qualify for postseason play during the high school season, but coach Darrell Pluard’s Legion entry has blended players from Brewer and Bucksport — the No. 1 seed in Eastern C this spring — with a sprinkling of key 2013 graduates who returned to the program after their freshman year in college.
That amalgamation process began rather sluggishly, with the Falcons getting off to a 2-3 start this summer. But the veteran roster — with 11 players returning from last year’s state tournament qualifier — then won 11 of its last 13 regular-season games before earning its third Zone 1 tournament crown in the last four years.
Brewer will open the five-day state tournament with a 10 a.m. game against one of the two non-Eastern Maine teams in the field, Zone 5 champion Staples Crossing (Post 188) of Eliot.
Staples Crossing, which at 19-1 shares the tournament’s best record with the other non-EM entry, Zone 4 champion Morrill Post of South Portland, features players from the Marshwood High School team that advanced to this year’s Western Maine Class A championship game, including infielder Zach Quintal, a University of Maine verbal commitment.
Also on the team is Max McCoomb, a second-team All-Great Northeast Athletic Conference shortstop as a first-year player at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish this spring.
This will be a rematch of a 2013 first-round game at the state tournament in which Staples Crossing scored seven runs in the first two innings en route to a 10-3 victory.
Bangor, which placed third at last year’s state tournament, is making its 13th appearance in the event in the last 15 years.
The Comrades feature a nucleus of players led by University of Maine-bound pitchers Justin Courtney and Trevor DeLaite that have a combined 36-6 record between Bangor High School’s run to the Class A state championship and the American Legion schedule, when Bangor won the Zone 1 regular-season title by three games.
“I really liked our schedule,” said Morris. “It was a tough schedule and I think really set us up for anybody, really, in terms of getting ready for a state tournament.
“We’ve really had a grind-out season where we’ve had to play four or five days in a row, but in terms of conditioning the kids both mentally and physically I think it made our zone really well prepared for the tournament.”
Bangor plays its state tourney opener at 6:30 p.m. against Morrill Post, and while Zone 4 has won 12 of the last 16 American Legion state championships, this marks the second straight year that the Portland-area division has qualified just one team for this tournament.
Morrill Post features players from a South Portland High School team that earned the No. 1 seed for the Western Maine Class A playoffs this spring and reached the regional semifinals before dropping a 3-1 decision to Marshwood.
Perhaps the ultimate darkhorse in the tournament — at least in how it qualified for states — is Post 51, which will play Bessey Motors at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The Oakland-based team finished last in the six-team Zone 2 regular season, then won a play-in game to advance to the double-elimination zone tourney before emerging as champion behind the pitching of Messalonskee High School standouts Jake Dexter and Devin Warren.
Bessey Motors, which dominated the Zone 3 regular season before being upset in the zone semifinals, is making its first state tourney appearance in four years. The South Paris team qualified for the state tournament with an 11-1, eight-inning play-in victory over Fayette-Staples of Saco last Saturday at Husson University.
Most of the Bessey Motors players helped Oxford Hills High School of South Paris reach the Eastern A semifinals during the spring.
Pastime Club of Lewiston will be making its sixth state tourney appearance in the last seven years when it faces Franklin County at 3:30 p.m.
Pastime Club has had considerable recent Legion success, winning state titles in both 2010 and 2011 (the 2010 edition was known as Gayton Post) and earning four straight Zone 3 tournament crowns.
Franklin County, consisting of players from Mt. Blue of Farmington and Mount Abram of Salem high schools, was the runner-up in both the Zone 2 regular season and tournament before defeating Westbrook 4-1 during last Saturday’s state tournament play-in round.