American Legion Baseball: Bessey downs Rogers, secures spot in zone title game

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Bessey Motors’ Cam Slicer cuts off a one-bounce line drive before it can scoot past him for extra bases during Saturday’s legion baseball game against Rogers Post 153. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

PARIS — Colton Carson escaped out of two bases-loaded jams and pitched a complete game to lead Bessey Motors to a 5-1 win over Rogers Post in a Zone 2 semifinal Saturday.

With the win, Bessey earns a spot in the zone championship and an automatic birth into the American Legion state tournament.

Mason Brushwein of Rogers reached base on a fielder’s choice in the top of the first inning after Tyler Blanchard singled. Gavin Bates then singled and both runners advanced on a passed ball. Damien St. Pierre followed with a walk to load the bases.

Colton Carson had already thrown 21 pitches at that point, and it looked like the perfect time for Rogers to strike. Next up was Ethan Brown, who struck out on a 2-2 count, leaving the bases loaded and possible runs off the board.

“If you get bases loaded, you have to score,” Rogers head coach Dave Jordan said. “If you start scoring early on, then it could be a different outcome.”

Bessey’s Cam Slicer opened the bottom of the first with an infield single. Slicer reached base all four times he batted Saturday.

A passed ball that ended up at the base of the backstop resulted in Slicer reaching third. Two batters later, Janek Luksza reached on an infield single to drive in Bessey’s first run.

Carson shut down Rogers in order in the second to give his team another chance to extend its lead. Ashton Kennison led off with a single to left, followed by Brayden Bean’s single to right. Wyatt Williamson then walked to load the bases for Jonny Pruett. Pruett grounded a ball to Bates at third, who tagged the base and threw home in time for catcher Giles Paradie to apply the tag on Kennison for the double play.

Slicer was up next  and drove a single into center that scored Williamson. Rodney Bean followed with a single that scored Pruett to make it 3-0. The top three players in Bessey’s batting order reached base on seven of their 12 plate appearances.

“When you get the leadoff guy on, then you can take some chances,” Bessey head coach Shane Slicer said. “We were able to force them a little bit and we stole quite a few bases, and it’s huge to get your top of the order, your speed guys, on base.”

Even with an increasing lead, Slicer didn’t feel comfortable.

“I was a little jacked up today,” Slicer said. “I didn’t know what was going on with Pastime, so getting to the championship was important. We had our best guy going and so did they. It felt like we only had a two-run lead the entire time.”

Someone who did feel comfortable the entire game was Carson, who shut down Rogers in the middle innings, allowing just one base runner in the third and fourth innings combined and accruing two of his six total strikeouts in that span.

St. Pierre was able to get out of the third inning unscathed, but the fourth was a different story.

Pruett and Slicer walked to begin the bottom of the fourth, and later Luksza doubled to drive home Pruett and increase Bessey’s lead to four.

In the fifth, Ben Cassidy, Tyler Blanchard and Brushwein singled to load the bases for Rogers. Bates grounded to Luksza at shortstop, who started a double play to end the inning. The play at first was close, but it stood, leaving Rogers asking “what if?”

“Carson threw well,” Jordan said. “I thought their defense made some really good plays. Their left side was fantastic. Emery (Chickering) made some good plays at third, we had some close plays at first that didn’t go our way, so be it. I told the guys that those two plays aren’t enough to win the game. We have to make more plays and come up in clutch situations.”

Through both jams, Carson was calm.

“It was weird, I didn’t feel nervous at all,” Carson said. “I knew if we threw strikes then we would get out of it and be fine.”

Brayden Bean struck out to start Bessey’s fifth, but reached first on a passed ball. Bean scored on a Williamson single to make it 5-0. Carson then escaped the sixth inning unscathed.

Tim Albert came in relief of St. Pierre in the seventh and got three outs on eight pitches, setting up one last chance for Rogers.

Albert singled to lead off and his pinch runner, Alex Avila, stole second and then scored on a passed ball to cut the deficit to four. Carson was able to strike out two of the last three hitters to finish off the victory for Bessey.

To Jordan, the lack of hits in important moments was the downfall for Rogers.

“I thought that we were always in striking distance and we needed to come up with a big hit if we could,” Jordan said. “I thought we looked tired a little bit, to be honest, and we needed a spark. We didn’t quite get one.”

Carson had a set plan from the beginning of the game, and felt he could execute it with the help of his teammates.

“Just attack the zone,” Carson said. “I just wanted to get ahead of batters and pound the zone. I have a good defense behind me, so I felt pretty confident all the way through.”

Rogers Post 153 catcher Giles Paradie tags Bessey Motors’ Ashton Kennison out at home during Saturday’s legion game in Paris. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Bessey Motors’ pitcher Colton Carson gets a knuckle from catcher Wyatt Williamson between batters during Saturday’s game against Rogers Post 153. 3 (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Gayton Post 153 3rd baseman Gavin Bates makes a diving attempt on a line drive that went past him for a hit during Saturday’s legion game against Bessey Motors. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Bessey Motors pitcher Colton Carson winds up for a pitch during Saturday’s game. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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