SOUTH PARIS – Trailing 5-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Bessey Motors assistant coach Joe Oufiero reminded the team that Saturday’s American Legion Zone III semifinal was far from over.
“I think it was in the bottom of the seventh, the coaches had a talk with us and told us we had nine outs from here,” said center fielder Nigel Cromwell. “We had to do something with those nine outs.”
Bessey made the most of those nine outs, scoring three in the seventh and two in the ninth, and also got some excellent relief pitching to pull off a 6-5 victory over Gilman Electric. Bessey (15-7) will host Gayton (11-11) at 1 p.m. today for a berth in the state Legion tournament.
Ryan Yates drove in Cromwell to tie the game at 5-5 with a one-out single to center in the ninth. He moved up to second when the center fielder’s throw to the plate sailed high.
A wild pitch by Gilman reliever Will Griffiths put Yates at third with two out. Justin Frechette then hit a bouncing ball that handcuffed third baseman Whitney Cross. He had to rush his throw to first, and it sailed high. Frechette dove into the bag head first, temporarily dislocating his left shoulder. He was face-down in the dirt being attended to by his coaches while his gleeful teammates celebrated the winning run at home plate with Yates.
“My shoulder popped out when I dove,” said Frechette, who made a couple of outstanding diving stops when he was at third base. “I saw the first baseman jump, so I knew I had to slide so he couldn’t get the tag on me.”
Bessey looked listless against Gilman starter Jake Pelletier, who gave up four hits in six innings. Just two were hit out of the infield. He fanned eight and walked one.
“He pitched great. He had good control,” Gilman coach Walt Cary said. “He was dominant.”
But the southpaw tired in the heat after 97 pitches and gave way to fellow lefty Joe Douglass to start the seventh. Douglass got the first batter thanks to a hustling Nick Mullins, who backed up first base on an errant throw by the shortstop and then pegged the runner at second. Douglass followed that by walking the bases loaded.
“We took our time and took pitches because they threw Joe Douglass, who hadn’t thrown in, I don’t know, a month-and-a-half, so we knew he’d be wild,” said Cromwell, who reached base four times, scored twice and drove in a run in the No. 9 spot.
Griffiths, a right-hander, relieved Douglass and was greeted by a two-run single by Matt Rolfe and an RBI single by Yates that pulled Bessey to within 5-4.
“It was good to see a righty in there. We didn’t hit Pelletier very well and when he came out, it gave us some life,” coach Shane Slicer said. “We didn’t have a lot of energy. We started getting life when we got a little closer.”
Gilman (14-8) got off to a quick start with an RBI single by Mullins in the first off Bessey starter Dillon Trundy. They added four more in the fifth on an RBI groundout by Eric Picard, a two-run single by Kyle Mullins and an RBI single by Pelletier. Yates doused the fire by getting the final out of the fifth.
Evan Humphrey took over in the sixth and threw four innings of scoreless relief to keep Bessey within striking distance.
“I just went in there and threw strikes,” Humphrey said. “I’ve been struggling with my control this year. I’ve been working on that and, finally, it came through.”
“It’s tournament time, and the nine innings helped us today,” Slicer said. “You’ve got to like it.”