BANGOR — Regular-season performance has not always been indicative of postseason success within the American Legion Zone 1 baseball world since the turn of the century.
Only four times in the last 11 years have the top two seeds in the zone tournament both advanced to the state tournament, and only four times has the No. 1 seed in the final regular-season standings gone on to win the zone tournament title.
So while Bangor and Brewer enter this year’s event — a five-team affair that commences Saturday night at Husson University with a play-in game between No. 4 Motor City of Bangor (13-8) and No. 5 Lincoln (10-11) — as the top two seeds, there’s no guarantee both will still be alive when the state tournament begins July 27 in Augusta.
“I think it’s going to be a great tournament,” said Brewer coach Chris Morris, whose team won the Zone 1 postseason title as the No. 2 seed behind Bangor last year and enters the 2011 tourney in the same position. “I think the (Nos.) 4-5 play-in game’s going to be a great game, and from there on out it’s pretty open.”
Bangor and Brewer have been the dominant teams in the zone since 2000. Bangor has won five Zone 1 postseason titles and advanced to the state tournament in nine of the last 11 years. Brewer has made five trips to the states, each time after winning the Zone 1 tournament.
The only team to break that Bangor-Brewer duopoly on the Zone 1 tournament title is Hampden, which rose from the No. 5 seed to win the 2008 crown and is seeded third in this year’s field.
Bangor enters its tournament opener Sunday night against the Motor City-Lincoln survivor with a league-best 17-4 record thanks to a lineup featuring second baseman Cody McInnis, shortstop Nic Cota and catcher Dylan Morris and a pitching staff led by Joe Stanevicz, Curtis Worcester and Jesse Wood.
But the Comrades’ depth has been tested this summer by hand injuries that have sidelined slugging first baseman Anthony Capuano and veteran infielder Jack Stacey.
Bangor also lost its regular-season series to two of the other postseason qualifiers, dropping two of three games to both Hampden and Motor City.
“There are some teams that at times looked like they might not fare that well but have come along,” said Bangor coach Dave Morris. “Motor City has played very well at the end of the season, they beat us twice and they beat us bad. Brewer obviously can win on any given night, and then Lincoln is a team that should be commended because they’ve not had as many kids as they’d like to have coming out but they’ve really stuck with it and they really have some competitors.
“And Hampden has some strong pitching.”
Brewer (16-5) and Hampden (14-7) begin Sunday’s play with a 4 p.m. first-round game. Brewer won two of the three regular-season meetings, splitting a doubleheader with the River Dogs on June 29 and then earning a 6-0 victory on July 7 behind the three-hit, shutout pitching of righthander Pat McEwen.
The zone tournament continues with games at 4 and 7 p.m. both Monday and Tuesday, with an if-necessary final game at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“I think it’s going to be a battle,” said Dave Morris. “The nine-inning games can help teams that have some pitching depth, but those extra at-bats also can help teams that might not have as much pitching. And Husson’s (FieldTurf) field makes things a little different. You hit a ball into the gap and sometimes those singles become doubles and if they aren’t played right they become triples.
“I think it’s pretty wide open. I’m not sure there’s a favorite.”
The Zone 1 champion advances to a first-round game in the double-elimination state tournament at 10 a.m. July 27 at Morton Field in Augusta against the Zone 2 (central Maine) champion.
The Zone 1 tournament runner-up will face the Zone 2 runner-up in a state tournament play-in game scheduled for July 23 at 11 a.m., also at Morton Field.