BANGOR — Morrill Post of South Portland walked 10 but also struck out 15 on Thursday, remaining alive in the American Legion baseball state tournament with an 8-5 victory that eliminated Franklin County at Husson University.
“It was a survivor game type of thing,” Franklin County Coach Kyle Gunzinger said. “It’s a hit or two away and this might be a 12-8 game, us.”
Morrill Post will play another elimination game at 11 a.m. Friday against the Brewer Falcons.
This was a strange game. Nick Whitten of Morrill hit the ball out of the infield once but still had three RBI. Amos Herrin of Franklin lined a shot into the outfield and was thrown out at first by right fielder Jacob Brown. Ryan Greenman of Franklin stopped halfway to second, turned and went back to first because a teammate was at second. The teammate was out, but Greenman ended up stealing second on the next pitch anyway.
Morrill starting pitcher Henry Curran threw 112 pitches in five innings. He allowed four hits, walked seven and struck out nine.
Morrill led 1-0 and 2-1 before scoring three runs in the bottom of the third to break a 2-2 tie, on one hit, three walks, two stolen bases, two wild pitches and a balk.
Curran walked three and committed a balk in the fourth, but still gave up only one run. Franklin finished with 14 runners left on base.
In the fifth, with the score 5-3, Cam Abbott led off with a triple, Herrin walked and Franklin had runners on first and third with nobody out. Herrin later stole second, but Curran struck out three straight, and Morrill padded its lead to 7-3 in the bottom of the inning.
“Kid got out of it second and third with three straight Ks,” Gunzinger said. “You really have to put a ball in play there. Realistically, one base hit could open the floodgates but that’s kind of the story of our year. The kids, they gut it out, though. They play tough.”
Morrill removed Curran to start the sixth. Andrew Pratt and Abbott lined RBI singles to get Franklin within 7-5 when Morrill went to the bullpen again for Jon Vickers. After loading the bases with one out on a walk, Vickers struck out the last two batters to end the inning.
“For school season I was a relief pitcher,” Vickers said, “so I’m used to it. That’s what they need me for.”
Vickers went the final 32/3 innings for the save, striking out six without allowing a hit. He had gone three innings Wednesday in a 4-1 loss to Bangor.
“My arm felt great,” Vickers said. “I did some running when I got home. I threw three innings (Wednesday) but only 40 pitches so it’s not that hard. I have a rubber arm. I can throw as many as I need.”
POST 51 3, STAPLES CROSSING 0: Jake Dexter threw 107 pitches in a five-hit shutout as Post 51, based in Oakland and primarily with players from Messalonskee High, won an elimination game at Bangor.
“Jake? Oh my God. Lights out,” said Post 51 second baseman Ben Frazee. “He was a leader today. No doubt.”
“I’ve been very impressed, especially with how he’s been pitching the past couple weeks,” Post 51 co-coach Ray Bernier said. “He’s becoming really focused, strong, efficient with his pitches. He finished with 107 (pitches). You’d normally take that in a seven-inning game so I’ll take that in nine innings, definitely. He’s been right on fire. He’s been pitching well, very confident.”
Post 51 has another elimination game at 3 p.m., Friday against Pastime. Staples Crossing, the South Berwick team that lost one game heading to the state tourney, was eliminated with a second loss in two days.
After Wednesday’s 7-2 loss to Bessey Motors, Bernier emphasized that his team needed to play with more emotion. Post 51 did that, sparked by one play on offense and another on defense.
The game was scoreless in the bottom of the fourth inning when Devin Warren, leading off for Post 51, slapped what looked like a routine grounder to second base. Instead of conceding the out, Warren ran with urgency, forcing a bad throw. He then stole second.
Warren was erased trying to take third on a groundout but Frazee followed with a sinking liner that turned into a triple when it got by the center fielder. Frazee later scored on a wild pitch.
It was still 1-0 in the sixth when Noah McDaniel and Jake Lebel singled for Staples with one out.
Jordan Roberge then rapped a grounder to Joe Leclair at shortstop. On the pivot, Lebel took out Frazee, but Frazee hung in and threw to first to complete the double play.