ZONE 3 UNITED base runner Zach Mann, left, slides into home as Highland Green catcher Cam Cox awaits the throw during a Senior American Legion baseball game at Freeport on Saturday. The teams split a doubleheader in Zone 3 action.

ZONE 3 UNITED base runner Zach Mann, left, slides into home as Highland Green catcher Cam Cox awaits the throw during a Senior American Legion baseball game at Freeport on Saturday. The teams split a doubleheader in Zone 3 action.

FREEPORT

Coming into Saturday’s games with Zone 3 United, Highland Green knew its opponent was a better ball club than its 0-10 record indicated.

After sending 10 men to the plate in the first inning of game one, the team based out of Gray-New Gloucester and Freeport showed Highland just that, cruising to a 12-2 victory in six innings in Senior American Legion baseball action.

HIGHLAND GREEN first baseman Sam Alexander, right, retires Zone 3 United’s Aiden Sweeney (19). Sweeney struck out and tried to reach first after the ball scooted away.

HIGHLAND GREEN first baseman Sam Alexander, right, retires Zone 3 United’s Aiden Sweeney (19). Sweeney struck out and tried to reach first after the ball scooted away.

Highland bounced back in game two with a 17-5, five-inning win over the home team.

ZONE 3 UNITED’S Chris Romano, center, is safe at second on a stolen base as Highland Green fielders Nick Merrill, left, and Garrett Moody (3) look on in the first game on Saturday.

ZONE 3 UNITED’S Chris Romano, center, is safe at second on a stolen base as Highland Green fielders Nick Merrill, left, and Garrett Moody (3) look on in the first game on Saturday.

In the opener, Highland’s Cam Cox led off the game with a line-shot double down the left-field line. Unfortunately, Cox was stranded after Zone 3 United’s Zach Neal fanned the next two hitters and received a grounder to second to end the frame.

Highland pitcher Mike Stewart opened the bottom half of the first by inducing a pair of groundouts to the shortstop for two quick outs. From there, the righty had trouble settling in. Chris Romano beat out an infield single and Joe Defusco followed with a knock of his own. Stewart proceeded to throw eight straight balls, walking the next two hitters and forcing in a run. A third straight walk made it 2-0. Josiah Rottari hit the first strike he saw, ripping a two-run single giving United a 4- 0 lead. The designated hitter Aiden Sweeney capped off the first inning scoring by following with a two-run double, plating both Shea Wagner and Rottari.

“Mike struggled a little bit out there on the mound today. I am still proud of how he battled for us though,” Highland coach Bob Neron said.

United scored three more times in the second. A leadoff walk to Zach Mann and a single by Defusco put the first two runners on. After a flyout to center, United catcher Nick McCann singled off Stewart, scoring Mann, and a Highland throwing error also allowed Defusco to score. Following a strikeout, Highland’s defense made another error as McCann scored for a 9-0 lead after just two innings.

Meanwhile, Neal was cruising on the mound for Zone 3 United. Neal pitched around a double and a single in the second and again in the third following an error and hit batsman to keep Highland off the scoreboard.

“Luke is solid. I love his mound presence and his demeanor while out there. Nothing seems to phase him either way. He’s very relaxed out there. He’s a strike machine, he goes out there and throws strikes,” Zone 3 United coach Erik Winchester said.

Highland Green finally got into the scoring column against Neal in the fifth. Garrett Moody reached base on an error and eventually came around to score on a Nick Merrill single. The visitors were also able to scratch together a single run in the top of the sixth after a pair of singles and a ground out pushed across their second run.

Entering the bottom of the sixth with a 10-2 lead, Zone 3 United manufactured a pair of runs to finish off Highland. Romano led off the inning with his third hit of the contest and was sacrificed to second and scored when a Highland throwing error sailed past first base and out of play. Jacob Dyer flew a sacrifice fly to the outfield, scoring McCann enabling the 10-run rule and giving Zone 3 United its first victory of the season.

“We came right out scoring six runs in that first inning. I try to tell my guys, the way you start the game, you need to finish the game the same way. You can’t wait for something to happen before you start running faster or trying harder,” said Winchester, whose team draws players from Freeport, Gray-New Gloucester, Cumberland, Yarmouth and Lake Region.

Second game

Highland led off Game 2 in the top of the first by sending 14 batters to the plate, scoring nine of them to jump out to a 9-0 lead after a half inning.

Kyle Brennan set the tone at the top of the order, singling off Zone 3 United starter Mann to open the inning. Cox singled and Merrill walked to load the bases. A bobble by the third baseman on a Sam Alexander grounder scored another run, with the bases still loaded. Following a strikeout, Cole Bryant delivered a line single, slicing the ball down the right-field line in scoring a pair.

Two batters later, Danny Stewart also sliced a single down the right field line, the first of his four hits in the game.

“I had been zero for my last eight at bats so I was really just trying to relax up at the plate,” Danny Stewart said.

Brennan came to bat, promptly knocking in two more runs with his second hit of the inning. An RBI single from Cox set up for a Merrill opposite-field ground-rule double over the right-field fence, extending the Highland lead to 9-0.

“Our bats came alive there in the second game. I couldn’t have been happier with them,” Neron said.

Highland’s Cam Grant took advantage to the large lead he inherited before throwing his first pitch by working quickly, throwing strikes and letting his defense play behind him. Grant worked around a one-out Mann double, getting a pair of ground-ball outs to short.

Mann was chased in the third inning, trailing 12-1, and was relieved by Rottari.

“Our starter today struggled, I really wanted him to work on his composure in a situation like this and I think he did,” Winchester said. “Our guys pick each other up and even when he did struggle, we didn’t give up.”

Zone 3 United’s bats came back to life some against Grant in the third, raking together four runs off four hits, including a two-run double by Defusco. A sac. fly from McCann and an RBI single from Wagner rounded out the scoring for the inning that left Zone 3 United trailing 12-5.

“Our kids battle. It’s not about wins and losses. I tell the kids it’s how you handle those situations,” Winchester said. “Even when trailing, I tell them there is so much to be learned from this. We have a lot of young players here on the team. No excuses, but it’s been tough being this young, but I see them coming around, together as a team.”

That was all the scoring Zone 3 United could muster against Highland pitching. The home team went down in order in the fourth inning and managed just a walk in the fifth to go down in defeat.

In all, Highland (4-7) pounded out 17 hits in game two, led by Danny Stewart (four hits), Bryant (three), and Cox (three).

“Danny Stewart and Cole Bryant were fabulous for us today. They are role players for us and to come out and give us this kind of performance was a real lift. I am so happy for these two,” Neron said.

Bryant, an senior at Mt. Ararat High School this fall, knows what it takes when the team needs him.

“I just work hard and try to be ready. I know the coach is going to call my number so I have to able to go when he does,” Bryant said.

Zone 3 United 12,
Highland Green 2

At Freeport High School
Game 1
Highland — 000 011 — 2 7 3
United — 630 102 — 12 8 2
Mike Stewart, Kam Labbe (4) and
Cam Cox; Luke Neal and Nick
McCann.
WP — Neal; LP — Stewart
Doubles — (HG) Cam Cox, Kyle
Brennan.
Repeat Hitters — (HG) Kyle Brennan (3), Brandon Emmons; (U) Chris
Romano (3).

Highland Green 17,
Zone 3 United 5

Game 2
Highland — 921 14 — 17 17 0
Zone 3 Untd. 014 00 — 5 7 3
Cam Grant, Cam Cox (3) and Sam
Alexander, Hunter Lohr (1); Zach
Mann, Josiah Rottari (3) and Jacob
Winchester
WP — Grant LP — Mann
Doubles — (HG) Nick Merrill (2); (U)
Zach Mann, Chris Romano,
Joe Defusco.
Repeat Hitters — (HG) Kyle Brennan, Cam Cox (3), Nick Merrill,
Hunter Lohr, Cam Bryant (3), Dan
Stewart (4); (U) Shea Wagner.
Records — Highland Green 4-7;
Zone 3 United 1-11
Up next for Highland Green — Tuesday at Yankee Ford, 5:30 p.m.
Up next for Zone 3 United — Thursday at home vs. Coastal Landscape,
5:30 p.m.


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