PORTLAND – American Legion baseball teams play seven-inning games in the regular season, then switch to nine innings for the zone and state tournaments.

Those extra two innings can seem long.

Nova Seafood was cruising with a 6-0 lead through six innings against Libby-Mitchell Post of Scarborough in the Zone 4 championship game Thursday at Harlow Field.

Then came the seventh and eighth, when Libby-Mitchell scored four runs.

But Nova, the two-time defending state champion, held on for a 6-4 victory to gain a berth in the state tournament that begins Wednesday at Wainwright Field in South Portland.

Nova Seafood, comprised of Deering High and two Cape Elizabeth High players, got a taste of playing more innings when it went nine innings Saturday against First Title, and then reached the 12th inning when the game continued Monday. Nova won.

“That was a good way to go into the state tournament,” said Jamie Ross, who pitched the final two innings against Libby-Mitchell.

Nova Seafood (17-3) will play Bessey Motors of Oxford Hills in the opening game of the state tournament at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The times for the other opening-day games in the double-elimination tournament are 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. The tournament will be played on two fields at Wainwright.

The pairings for the other games won’t be finalized until after Saturday’s two play-in games, also at Wainwright.

Libby-Mitchell (15-5) will play Gayton Post of Lewiston at 11 a.m. Saturday, and Bangor will play Staples Crossing of South Berwick at 2:30 p.m. The winners will advance to the state tournament.

The teams already in the state tournament are Nova Seafood, Bessey Motors, Brewer, Gardiner, Augusta and Fayette-Staples of Saco.

The state tournament rotates an automatic berth among the five zones each season. Zone 2 got the automatic berths this year.

Libby-Mitchell, held to two hits and no runs by Nova left-hander Nick DiBiase through six innings, scored one in the top of the seventh on a long home run by Chris Bernard to left field. Bernard’s blast landed on the roof of the Deering High gymnasium.

Libby-Mitchell’s three runs in the eighth came on an RBI double by Conor McCann, a wild pitch and a groundout.

Ross relieved with no outs in the eighth, then retired Libby- Mitchell in the ninth on three fly balls.

“I would like to get another shot at Nova Seafood,” said Libby-Mitchell Coach Jim Cronin. “We gave them their early runs. We came out flat.”

Nova Seafood took a 2-0 lead in the first on a two-run single by Cam Brown, a Cape Elizabeth product.

The other Caper, Kyle Danielson, singled home a run in the third to make it 3-0. Nova scored in the fourth on two errors and two stolen bases.

Nova made it 6-0 in the fifth. Ross doubled to left for a run and later scored on a groundout.

“It was good for Nick to pitch seven-plus innings,” said Ross. “The last couple of games have given our pitchers a feeling what it’s like to pitch more than seven innings. Last year we had a lot of veteran players. We could play poorly and still win. This year we have a lot of young players and we’re going to have to earn it.”

DiBiase’s strong effort came at the right time. Pitching depth is crucial in the state tournament.

“He threw strikes and what I liked was that he threw harder as the game went along. He competed,” said Nova Coach Mike D’Andrea.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:

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