SOUTH PORTLAND – Gayton Post of Auburn was down to its last three outs Sunday in the championship game of the American Legion baseball state tournament, but a two-run deficit was hardly daunting for a team that’s making a habit out of comebacks.

For the second time in three days, Gayton rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth and eked out a 17-16 win against Augusta to capture its first state championship.

Earlier Sunday, Augusta rolled to a 13-6 win over Gayton, forcing one more game in the double-elimination tournament at the Wainwright Complex. Augusta then put itself into position to win the championship until Gayton mustered another comeback.

“We just kept grinding,” Gayton center fielder Alex Wong said. “We’ve been doing that all season. Just coming back and never giving up.”

Just two days earlier, Gayton scored three runs in the ninth to pull out an 8-7 win against defending champion Nova Seafood. Gayton also needed a ninth-inning rally against Libby-Mitchell in a play-in game last weekend to get into the state tournament.

Against Augusta, Gayton overcame deficits of 7-0 and 11-3.

“The difference in the second game today was that we were mentally tough,” Gayton Coach Todd Cifelli said. “Sometime the middle innings when the game wasn’t looking too hot, we gathered the kids around in the dugout and told them to have some fun. We told them to swing the bats and loosen up a little bit. We swung the bats and got back into it, and we were fortunate to get the win.”

Gayton Post, made up primarily of players from Lewiston High, banged out 14 hits and took advantage of six errors.

“We’ve been going at it hard for 11 or 12 days, and I just think mentally we got a little tired, and it just led to physical mistakes, really,” Augusta Coach Ray Vallee said.

In the ninth, Luke Cote and Wong hit back-to-back singles with one out, then pulled off a double steal when pitcher Ryan Minoty mistakenly pitched from a full windup. After Mckae Hyde struck out, both runners scored on a throwing error by Nick Lucas following Jeff Keene’s grounder to third, creating a 16-16 tie.

Keene moved to third on a throwing error by catcher John Burns. He scored when Greg Labonte lined a single off Minoty’s glove.

“We just couldn’t get outs,” Vallee said. “It wasn’t any particular spot in the field. We just couldn’t make plays when we needed to.”

Labonte and Scott Ouellette each had three hits in the second game to lead Gayton (24-4).

Colin McKee, Luke Duncklee, Charlie Partridge and Lucas had three hits for Augusta (22-8).

Augusta won four straight games to come through the losers’ bracket and reached the final by outslugging Gayton in Sunday’s first game. Jordan Conant belted two three-run homers, and Partridge also hit a three-run homer.

Wong was named the tournament’s most valuable player. He had 14 hits in 28 at-bats and recorded two pitching wins.

Gayton Post advances to the Northeast Regional, which starts Thursday in Middletown, Conn.

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

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