BANGOR, Maine — Postseason success may not be equal parts excellence of execution and good fortune, but both qualities can aid any team’s pursuit of a championship.
The Brewer Falcons capitalized on both Wednesday to outlast Staples Crossing of Eliot 4-1 in 10 innings in the opening game of the American Legion baseball state tournament at Husson University’s Winkin Complex.
Coach Darrell Pluard’s Zone 1 tournament champions (17-6) advance to a winners’ bracket game at 3:30 p.m. Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s game between Post 51 of Oakland and Bessey Motors of South Paris.
Staples Crossing (19-2) will play the Post 51-Bessey Motors loser in an elimination game at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Righthander Kyle Alexander earned the pitching win with 10th-inning relief help from Jeff Weeks.
The Babson College-bound Alexander, who attended Phillips-Exeter Academy in New Hampshire the last two years, scattered five hits over nine innings while striking out six batters and walking five in outdueling Staples Crossing righty Robert Jones.
“Kyle is an exceptional pitcher,” said Pluard of Alexander, who did not play baseball during the spring. “He’s not a thrower, he’s a pitcher who works in and out, up and down. He sets everything up for his cutter. His cutter is his out pitch and he threw that so well today. To hold a team like that to five hits is pretty special.”
A key error sparked Brewer’s game-winning three-run rally in the top of the 10th, three innings after an apparent go-ahead run by Staples Crossing was taken off the scoreboard.
“We had opportunities but we couldn’t capitalize,” said Staples Crossing coach Shawn Gillis. “We had a tough one on the play that was called back, it flattened the guys out but we came back and competed. Then they got an opportunity when we bobbled one and they took advantage, but that’s baseball and if you leave it up to one play a lot of times you’re going to get burned.”
Staples Crossing’s lone error of the game came on a potential inning-ending double play grounder, enabling the go-ahead run to score and setting up a three-run rally that snapped a 1-1 tie.
The Falcons loaded the bases with no one out as Greg Warmuth singled, Logan Rogerson walked and Chase Allen was hit by a pitch from Deion Stewart, who had replaced Jones to start the inning.
An Alexander grounder forced Warmuth out at the plate before Jeff Weeks hit a grounder to shortstop that was mishandled, allowing Rogerson to score the go-ahead run.
Brendan Moore then singled down the left-field to drive home Allen and Alexander.
“I think it was a 2-2 count and he gave me a hard, inside fastball and I knew I had to turn on it and hit it hard and get it through the infield,” said Moore, a recent Bangor High School graduate who will attend Columbia University in the fall. “What ended up happening was I got it off the handle. It’s all about coming up with the right hit at the right time and this team’s been doing it for quite a while now.”
Weeks worked a scoreless bottom of the 10th to earn the save despite yielding a two-out double to Jake Lebel, his third hit of the game.
Brewer took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second without getting the ball out of the infield.
Carter DeRedin drew a one-out walk, went to second on a balk and to third on Warmuth’s bunt single down the third-base line. Back-to-back walks to Rogerson and Allen forced home DeRedin before Jones recorded an inning-ending strikeout.
Staples Crossing scratched out an unearned tying run in the fourth.
Matt Brenner drew a one-out walk and Lebel singled to center. Zach Hodges just beat the throw to first on a potential double-play comebacker to the mound, and Brenner scored on an overthrow after Jordan Roberge’s grounded to shortstop.
Staples Crossing thought it took a 2-1 lead in the seventh.
Jones reached second base on a one-out infield error and advanced to third as Zach Quintal grounded out to the right side of the infield.
Max McCoomb then ripped a 2-2 pitch that caromed off Alexander’s foot at the mound and went skyward to shortstop where Rogerson caught the ball and threw late to first base as Jones crossed the plate.
The ball initially was ruled to have hit the ground before it struck Alexander, but after Brewer coaches went to the mound to check on the Falcon pitcher’s health, Pluard asked the umpires to discuss whether the ball hit the ground before Rogerson caught it.
“The kid hit the ball hard and it got me right on the back of the heel as I was lifting up,” Alexander said. “But in the back of my mind I was thinking it was a catch because Logan caught it in the air, but I was on the ground and in so much pain I wasn’t really thinking about that.”
“Coach came out and checked on me, and once I settled down we all thought it was a catch so we asked the umps and they got together and made the right call,” he said.
Brewer 010 000 000 3 — 4 6 2
Staples Crossing 000 100 000 0 — 1 6 1
Alexander, Weeks (10) and DeRedin; Jones, Stewart (10) and Brenner.