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BANGOR, Maine — A game that began with a symbolic protest concluded in a brief celebration for Bessey Motors on Wednesday.
The South Paris team, minus its top pitcher due to a pitch-count issue, used the shutout pitching of Troy Johnson and Ashton Kennison and a heads-up baserunning move by Emery Chickering to edge defending champion Bangor Coffee News 1-0 in an elimination game of the state Senior American Legion State Tournament at Husson University.
The victory advanced Bessey Motors to the evening’s state championship game against Coastal Landscape of Portland. Coastal Landscape won 4-3 to earn a trip to the Northeast Regional in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, beginning Aug. 8.
Coffee News, which went undefeated during the regular season in its quest for a fourth state Legion title in the past five years, finished third in the tournament with a 3-2 record and ended its summer at 22-2 overall.
“These guys have nothing to be ashamed of,” Bangor coach Dave Morris said. “They played hard all year long, and it just wasn’t our day today.”
Bessey Motors, which stranded seven baserunners over the first five innings thanks in great part to a defense keyed by shortstop Zach Ireland — who took part in three double plays — scratched across the game’s lone run in the top of the sixth.
Back-to-back singles by Chickering and Kennison, and a comebacker to the mound by Wyatt Williamson put runners on second and third with one out.
Johnson followed with another comebacker to Cowperthwaite, who threw to first for the second out of the inning. But when the Comrades tried to catch Kennison straying too far off second base, Chickering broke for home and scored with a head-first slide.
“I didn’t think I was going to score at first but the second baseman turned his back so I went,” Chickering said. “I didn’t really see what happened, but I dove in and I was safe.”
Kennison earned the pitching win with 2 2/3 innings of one-hit relief despite issuing six walks. He was aided by double plays that helped Bessey Motors escape a bases-loaded jam in the sixth and then end the game after Bangor had advanced a runner to second with one out in the seventh.
“Sometimes it just comes down to who takes an advantage of an opportunity,” Morris said. “It wasn’t necessarily a mistake, it was just good, heads-up baseball on their part.”
Cowperthwaite, who hadn’t pitched since the final week of the regular season, worked an eight-hitter to keep his team in contention. But the Comrades managed only two hits for the second straight game and were unable to capitalize on their scoring opportunities.
“We’ve seen each other so many times and know each other so well,” Morris said. “The other night (a 5-0 Bangor Coffee News victory over Bessey Motors on Sunday) we hit the ball when we needed to, and tonight we just didn’t get the big hit.”
This game started with a controversy involving Bessey Motors ace Colton Carson that dated back to his first pitching start of the tourney.
The right-hander was credited with 81 pitches thrown on Saturday, according to the official scorer, meaning that under Legion rules he required four days off before being eligible to work on the mound again.
The Bessey Motors staff disagreed, certain that he had thrown just 79 pitches in the earlier game and was eligible to pitch Wednesday on three days rest.
But with no formal means of protesting the disagreement, the Zone 2 runners-up displayed their displeasure with the situation by having Carson throw the team’s first pitch in the bottom of the first inning.
Carson then was ejected as was Bessey Motors coach Shane Slicer, who grabbed his duffel bag and left the stadium as required under the rules.
Bessey Motors regrouped quickly, with Johnson coming on to shut out the Comrades on one hit over 4 1/3 innings before giving way to Kennison.
“We’ve been talking about it for a while,” Chickering said of the pitch-count dispute, “and when we broke the huddle for the game we said, ‘Family.’ It kind of brought us together and definitely motivated us.”
Coastal Landscape 4, Bessey Motors 3
In the title game, Barbecue Yee’s RBI double capped a four-run third inning that lifted the Portland-based team to the state championship.
James Sinclair stroked a two-run double and Tanner Bernier hit a run-scoring single in the uprising for Coastal Landscape, which finished the tournament at 4-1.
Sinclair pitched six innings of seven-hit ball and allowed three runs, one of which was earned. He struck out four and walked none. Dylan Francoeur worked a scoreless seventh for the save.
Luc Harrison and Francoeur posted two hits each.
Wyatt Williamson singled twice to pace Bessey Motors (4-2). Rodney Bean drove in two runs on a sacrifice fly and a groundout. Emery Chickering gave up nine hits and four runs in 5 1/3 innings to take the loss.
Bessey Motors 002 010 0 — 3 7 2
Coastal Landscape 004 000 x — 4 10 2
Chickering, Slicer (6) and Williamson; Sinclair, Francoeur (7) and Yee
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