SOUTH PARIS – For the second straight day, Justin Frechette had a chance to win the game for Bessey Motors in the bottom of the ninth.
And for the second straight day, he did not disappoint.
Frechette’s base hit in the final frame sent Matt Verrier home with the winning run in the American Legion Zone III final as Bessey fought off upset-minded Gayton, 5-4, Sunday at Gouin Athletic Complex.
Bessey will be the second representative in the state Legion tournament, which begins Saturday at St. Joseph’s College. New Auburn clinched a bid and earned a bye after winning the regular season in the zone.
Verrier, who knocked in the winning run in Saturday’s 6-5 semifinal win over Gilman Electric by diving head-first into first base (popping his left shoulder out in the process), lined an 0-1 pitch from Gayton reliever Josh Leino into center field.
The Bessey third baseman wanted to make amends after grounding into a rally-killing double play in the seventh and committing an error in the top of the ninth that led to the tying run for Gayton.
“I just wanted to make up for that,” Frechette said. “I was just looking to get a good fastball to hit, either get ahold of it and get it into the outfield or get a little base hit like I did and get the guy in.”
Gayton, which upset top-seeded Gray on Saturday, rallied from a 3-0 deficit, finally solving Bessey starter Chris Roy with a three-run sixth. Bessey took the lead back with an unearned run in the eighth, but Frechette’s fielding error to start the ninth opened the door for Gayton to tie it again. Travis Dyke knotted it at 4-4 with a two-out single up the middle, scoring Devan Knight.
Dyke stole second and third to get into scoring position for the go-ahead run, but Ben Goodall, who came on in relief after Dyke’s hit, stranded him 90 feet away by getting Rob Leeman to fly out to center.
“We fought back, but (Bessey) has some really good hitters, and they hit some good pitches today,” Gayton coach Todd Cifelli said.
Bessey (16-7) also made Gayton pay for all three of its fielding errors, though it couldn’t put the game away when opportunities arose to do so.
Verrier scored the game’s first run in the first inning on a fielding error by the first baseman. Bessey added another in the second on an RBI single by Ryan Yates (three hits). Greg LaBonte kept it from getting any worse, though, by throwing Dillon Trundy out at home with a laser from center field on a Nigel Cromwell single.
An error at third base preceded an RBI single by Ethan Sutton that made it 3-0 in the third. Gayton starter Kyle Neagle wiggled his way out of further trouble, though. Bessey stranded six men through the first four innings.
Roy (8 2/3 innings, six hits, five Ks, four walks) held Gayton hitless until the fifth, when Mekae Hyde stroked a single. A walk to LaBonte and a ground out put runners at second and third but Roy whiffed Will Emerson swinging on a curve ball and got Mike Fontaine to ground back to the mound to temporarily protect the lead.
“I just threw a lot of deuces (curve balls) and hit a lot of corners,” Roy said. “The curve was working pretty good for me, so I just kept on going with it.”
“He’s got some late movement to his fastball and his curve ball was solid early on,” Cifelli said. “He was huge. He got a no-decision, but I’d give him the Player of the Game.”
Gayton (11-12) finally got to him in the sixth when Dyke led off with a single, Leeman walked and, following a ground out, Eddie West singled through a drawn-in infield to score Dyke. West then deked the catcher into an errant throw by bluffing for second, which allowed Leeman to score. West scored the tying run on a booted grounder by the shortstop.
Roy buckled down from there, despite his pitch count eclipsing 100 in the heat.
“He was awesome,” Bessey coach Shane Slicer said. “He was one pitch away from getting the win in the ninth. They scored three in the sixth, and I thought Chris threw well. We booted the ball a little bit, and he just kept pitching.”
Luke Potter, who threw six innings and got the victory in Gayton’s quarterfinal win over Northern Oxford on Friday, came on in relief of Neagle in the fifth and threw four solid innings. He worked his way out of a first-and-third, one-out jam in the seventh by getting Frechette to ground into a 4-6-3 double play. In the eighth, his own throwing error put on the go-ahead run, which scored with two out when his first pitch to Yates bounced off home plate and to the backstop.