American Legion Baseball: Skowhegan strikes down Pastime

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AUGUSTA — Another day, another frustrating loss for Pastime. Another day, another dominating performance from an opposing pitcher.

But for Pastime Club, made up of players from Lewiston, Lisbon and Monmouth, and which entered the American Legion baseball state tournament a perfect 21-0, there won’t be another day.

The Zone 2 champions lost their second game in as many days, a 9-4 defeat at the hands of Skowhegan on Friday that eliminated Pastime from the tournament.

After producing just one hit in a shutout loss Thursday, Pastime was on the wrong side of another standout pitching display Friday. Skowhegan’s Cody Lawyerson — who will be playing at the University of Maine next year — recorded his first eight outs via strikeout, and finished with 13 for the game.

“If you can get going in the first inning, it carries on to the other innings,” Lawyerson said.

Skowhegan manager Roger Stinson said he went into Friday not knowing who his starter would be, with a choice between Lawyerson and Dustin Crawford.

“Honestly, you can just see in his face he wanted the ball,” Stinson said of approaching Lawyerson in pregame warmups.

It was Lawyerson’s second strikeout of the game that raised some eyebrows. The right-hander hit the corner for a called third strike, setting down Pastime’s Brock Belanger.

Pastime’s starting catcher voiced his frustration — without cursing, according to manager Jake Brown — about the strike call and was ejected from the game.

Hunter Landry followed with a two-out infield hit and moved to second on an errant throw, then to third on a passed ball. But Lawyerson stranded him there by striking out Austin Wing.

Lawyerson left another two-out base runner stranded by finishing the second inning off with a punchout of Eddie Turgeon.

The first two Pastime batters of the third struck out before Lawyerson recorded his first non-strikeout out — a flyout to center by Nick Lerette, who came in to replace Belanger at catcher and in the No. 2 hole in the lineup.

“Obviously it hurts. It hurts behind the plate. It hurts up at the plate,” Brown said of losing Belanger, one of the team’s leaders. “I thought Nick did great for having to go behind the plate with not expecting it that quickly.”

The game was still scoreless at that point, but not for long. Skowhegan struck for five runs in the bottom of the third against Pastime starting pitcher Lucas Francis. A safe play at the plate on a bunt led to the first run, then a three-run triple over the head of Landry in center by Lawyerson cleared the loaded bases. Landry lost his footing trying to track down the liner.

“That was hit very, very hard,” Brown said of Lawyerson’s hit. “Nothing you can do with that.”

Lawyerson came home on a sacrifice groundout by Crawford to complete the scoring in the inning.

Skowhegan tacked on another run in the fourth, on singles by Chase Malloy and Brendan Curran, then two more in the fifth on a Will Stinson single and a Malloy sacrifice fly.

Pastime tried to chip out of the 8-0 hole by starting up its offense in the top of the sixth. Evan Cox led off with a single, then Gage Cote bunted his way for a base hit. After Lawyerson struck out his 11th batter and induced a liner-turned-groundout, Wing doubled to bring home two runs and Kyle Bourget singled in Wing.

“I think I might have relaxed a little too much,” Lawyerson said. “I was throwing a lot of fastballs, I wasn’t really mixing it up. They started squaring me up in that inning.”

Francis popped out to end the frame, then Lawyerson finished off his seven-inning outing with two more strikeouts and a groundout.

“That was really good pitcher we faced,” Brown said. “In fact, we faced two really good pitchers the last two games, and we just didn’t really see good pitching — that good of pitching — during the regular season.”

Skowhegan scored its final run in the sixth. Pastime prevented one run by catching Curran trying to score on a passed ball after leading off with a double, but Evan Bess later scored on Crawford’s RBI single against reliever Gordon Beckwith.

Pastime made it interesting in the top of the ninth against Ryan Emery. Francis was hit with a one-out pitch, then Mitch Davis brought him home with a double. But Cote grounded into a game-ending fielder’s choice to Malloy at shortstop.

For Skowhegan, it was a second straight offensive outburst, scoring 23 combined runs, after producing just three in the tournament opener and struggling at times during the season.

For Pastime, which was 22-0 after winning its first game of the tournament, Friday was a second straight for a team that wasn’t used to defeat.

It was also the second straight game where Pastime was left frustrated by umpire decisions.

“We didn’t lose the game because of the umpires,” Brown said. “We lost the game because they got some hits, we didn’t. And they had a really good pitcher on the mound that we just couldn’t get hits.”

But Brown didn’t completely absolve the umpires.

“You can’t be throwing people out for (what Belanger did), unless you’re going to throw someone out every single time,” Brown added.

Brown said putting his team’s season in perspective will take some time.

“Right now, it hurts because we lost,” Brown said. “I think, like I told the kids, give it a week. These kids had a great season. To go through the zone the way we did, and to get here, is a good season.”

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Skowhegan’s Chase Malloy just beats out a throw to Pastime’s Mitch Davis at first base during Skowhegan’s 9-4 win in an American Legion baseball state tournament game at McGuire Field in Augusta on Friday.Skowhegan starting pitcher Cody Lawyerson struck out 13 batters over seven innings in a 9-4 win over Pastime at the American Legion baseball state tournament in Augusta on Friday.Hunter Landry of Pastime watches his line drive during a 9-4 loss to Skowhegan in the American Legion baseball state tournament at McGuire Field in Augusta on Friday.Skowhegan’s Cody Lawyerson connects for a triple during a 9-4 win over Pastime in an American Legion baseball state tournament game at McGuire Field in Augusta on Friday.

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