The Senior League World Series will crown its 2017 champion Saturday night in Easley, South Carolina, far removed from that tournament’s home for the previous 15 years at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
But the Queen City won’t be without championship baseball this weekend as the New England Junior American Legion tournament will be held at the ballpark Stephen King built from Friday through Sunday.
“We’re ready to go,” said state Junior Legion commissioner Rod Stevens of Skowhegan.
Junior Legion is a relatively new division of youth baseball in Maine, with 18 teams of players ages 13-17 competing statewide this summer divided into nine-team North and South divisions.
Thirsty Turf Irrigation of Portland, a team consisting of players from Cheverus High School, emerged as this year’s state champion after outlasting Hartt Transportation of Hampden-Hermon in last Sunday’s finals at Colby College in Waterville.
Skowhegan Post 16, which went 14-4 during the regular season before being ousted by Thirsty Turf Irrigation during the playoffs, is the predetermined host team for the regional.
While the more established Senior Legion program advances eight regional champions to the American Legion World Series in Shelby, North Carolina, on Aug. 10-15, Junior Legion baseball won’t have its inaugural World Series until next year, also in North Carolina.
That lack of a national connection this year has allowed Stevens to work with the other state Junior Legion commissioners participating in the regional to relax a pair of rules related to player participation.
Stevens said that unlike national Legion rules that dictate that designated hitters may bat only for the pitcher, the DH will be able to bat for any field player during this tournament. In addition, starting players will be allowed to re-enter the game after being removed for a substitute, unlike the Senior Legion national standard.
“These kids are traveling a long ways up here and any way to get them into the game and onto the field is how I want to do it,” Stevens said. “It doesn’t lessen the integrity of the game at all. It’s how we’ve been playing all year in Junior Legion with the re-entry.”
This marks the first time the New England Junior Legion tournament has been held in Maine since 2012 when The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach was the host. Next year’s tournament will be held in Connecticut, while Maine is not scheduled to host the Junior Legion regional again until 2022.
This year’s event kicks off at 11 a.m. Friday with Thirsty Turf Irrigation facing Massachusetts runner-up Franklin Post 75.
That’s followed at 2 p.m. by Massachusetts champion Hudson Post 100 against Connecticut runner-up Stratford Post 42, then a 5 p.m. game between Connecticut champion Ellington-Hatheway-Miller Post 62 and New Hampshire champion Newmarket Post 67.
The opening day will conclude with an 8 p.m. game between Skowhegan Post 16 and Rhode Island champion Auburn Post 20/Elmwood Sports.
The tourney continues Saturday with loser’s bracket games at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and winner’s bracket semifinals at 5 and 8 p.m., and concludes Sunday with the fifth-place game at 11 a.m., the third-place game at 2 p.m. and the championship game at 5 p.m.
All games are scheduled for seven innings.