SOUTH PORTLAND – During American Legion baseball’s regular season, there is no seventh-inning stretch.

In the state tournament, there is, because teams play nine innings instead of seven.

Wednesday was the first day that coaches and pitchers had to adjust to the extra innings. And in the opener between defending state champion Nova Seafood and Zone 3 champion Bessey Motors, it may have made a difference.

Nova won 7-4 and according to Bessey Motors Coach Shane Slicer, the extra two innings were costly.

“It is a little bit more of a grind,” Slicer said.

“Erik (Henderson) ran out of steam and he threw a few too many pitches.”

Slicer’s team isn’t alone. Ray Petit, coach of Zone 5 champion Fayette-Staples Post, also has difficulty with nine innings.

“It makes it a little tougher pitching-wise. Most of these guys are used to pitching six or seven innings,” said Petit. “You’re going into the game with a plan and you don’t want to use your starter for (the second game) more than an inning.”

 

THE FIRST game featured opposing coaches who were once teammates. Slicer and Nova Seafood Coach Mike D’Andrea played together for three years at the University of Maine.

The two have sat on opposite sides of the field in the past and to Slicer, it isn’t the same now as the first time.

“It has been a long time and the feeling is different than the first time around,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for him and he has had good success.”

For D’Andrea, the feeling is mutual.

“We’ve coached many times and it’s always a pleasure to see (Slicer),” D’Andrea said.

“We were teammates for three years, so there is friendship and mutual respect. A little bit of both.”

 

A FAMILIAR FACE to American Legion baseball made an appearance at the tournament opener.

Stump Merrill, a Maine native and former New York Yankees manager, once played Maine American Legion baseball.

Merrill, 66, played for Smith-Tobey Post of Bath in 1962.

He currently lives in Harpswell.

After his playing time with Smith-Tobey, Merrill attended UMaine, where he played and coached baseball.

In April, the Portland Sea Dogs opened their season at Hadlock Field with Merrill throwing out the first pitch.

Merrill stood behind the backstop during the opening game of the tournament and showed off his Yankees apparel.

Staff Writer Austin Pollack can be contacted at 791-6384 or at:

[email protected]