AUGUSTA – A slugfest turned pitchers’ duel ended in dramatic fashion Friday afternoon, as Jason Burns’ two-run homer with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning lifted Augusta past Bangor 11-9 in a winners’ bracket game of the 79th Maine American Legion baseball tournament at Morton Field.
With Eric Ogren on first base, Burns pulled a 2-2 fastball from Greg Duff over the right-field fence to snap a 9-9 tie and give the Zone 2 champions their 20th consecutive victory and leave them as the only undefeated team in the double-elimination tournament.
“He had gotten me with an outside pitch earlier in the at-bat that I didn’t do anything with,” said Burns. “It got to 2-2, and I was hoping he would come inside inside with something. He did, and I was able to turn on it.”
Augusta will play Brewer, an 8-3 winner over Morrill Post of South Portland Friday, in Saturday’s late game, while Bangor will face Gayton Post of Lewiston in an elimination game at 11 a.m.
Gayton Post, the defending state champion, eliminated Bessey Motors of South Paris 9-4 in Friday’s first game.
The Bangor-Augusta game was an offensive show early, with Bangor leading an Augusta team that had scored 37 runs in its first two tournament victories 9-8 through five innings.
But then both teams turned to their pitching aces, and the tenor of the contest changed.
Augusta righthander Ryan Minoty, who pitched six innings two days earlier in an opening-day win over Brewer, held Bangor hitless over the final four innings, while Augusta continued to struggle finishing off threats against a cast of four Bangor relievers that included top starters Joe Stanevicz and Curtis Worcester.
“We were a little frustrated,” said Burns, “because we had a lot of chances but we were a little unlucky and they made some plays to get out of innings.”
Augusta (20-2) tied the game in the seventh when Burns was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and threatened again in the eighth before Duff came on to strand Corey Lapierre at third base with an inning-ending strikeout.
Duff retired the first two batters in the ninth before Ogren singled to bring up Burns.
The Augusta cleanup hitter, who homered twice in his team’s 21-11 victory over Gayton Post on Thursday but had gone 0-for-2 while being hit by a pitch and drawing two walks against Bangor, soon unleashed a no-doubt blast to end the 3-hour, 30-minute contest.
“I was just hoping for the chance to get up in the ninth,” said Burns. “Eric Ogren did a great job of getting on base, and that gave me a chance.”
Ogren, Lapierre and Corey Clarke each had two hits to pace Augusta’s 12-hit attack, while Luke Duncklee doubled.
Bangor (22-7) had seven hits including two RBI doubles by Dylan Morris — one that bounced over the center-field fence in the second inning but was originally ruled a three-run homer before the call was overturned.
Cody McInnis added a double and a two-run single for the Comrades, while Carl Farnham singled and drew three walks from the No. 9 spot in the batting order.
Earlier in the day, Kyle McLain pitched a complete-game six-hitter to fuel Brewer’s victory, striking out 10 batters and walking four.
“I’m just really proud of Kyle and the way he battled,” said Brewer coach Chris Morris. “They got some hits off him but he kept his composure, competed and threw strikes, and that’s what we needed.”
Brewer played errorless defense behind McLain, and Eric White and Blake Birmingham led the Falcons’ offense with three hits apiece while Tyler French and Nick Moore added two hits each.
Brewer (21-6) led from start to finish against Morrill Post (15-8) after taking a 2-0 lead in the first. French grounded a double down the left-field line, went to third on a one-out single by White and scored on a wild pitch by Matt DiBiase.
White, who had stolen second, went to third on the wild pitch. Evan Eldridge then walked and stole second, and White scored when DiBiase made an errant pickoff throw trying to catch Eldridge off second base.
Brendan Horton skied a solo homer just inside the right-field foul pole with one out in the second to draw Morrill Post within 2-1.
An RBI single by French extended the Brewer lead to 3-1 in the fourth, but DiBiase hit an RBI single to left-center and scored on Adam Helmke’s one-out triple to left to rally Morrill Post to 3-3 tie in the top of the fifth.
White led off the Brewer fifth with a double to left-center and scored on McEwen’s single to left to give the Falcons a 4-3 lead.
The Falcons manufactured another run in the sixth as Birmingham had a bunt single, went to second on a balk and stole third before scoring on Brandon Gendreau’s sacrifice fly.
Eldridge was hit by a pitch to start a three-run Brewer seventh. Eldridge stole second and scored on a one-out single by Moore, and Moore scored when Billy DeRedin’s fly to right was dropped. DeRedin reached second on the play and scored on Birmingham’s two-out pop single to right.
Morrill Post 010 020 000—3-5-2
Brewer 200 111 30x—8-12-0
DiBiase, Z. Horton (5), Richards (8) and Helmke; McLain and Moore
Bangor 130 140 000—-9—7—2
Augusta 210 320 102—11-12-1
Wood, Laplante (5), Stanevicz (6), Worcester (7), Duff (8) and Morris; Clough, Minoty (6) and Burns, Ogren (3)