LEWISTON — Thursday’s American Legion baseball game had a different intensity to it than most regular season games, with Bessey Motors and Pastime entering the top of the ninth inning tied at six as the top two teams in Zone 2.
The two teams aren’t new to extras — they played 16 innings to decide the Zone 2 champion in 2017. On Thursday night, as the sun started to hide behind the trees down the first-base line, Ashton Kennison stepped up to the plate and slapped a single into center. Kennison moved to second on a grounder and then was advanced to third on an Emery Chickering single. Next up was Brayden Bean, who drove a ball into right field that scored what turned out to be the winning run in Kennison. Starting pitcher Wyatt Williamson drove home Bean, and Bessey held on to win by a score of 8-6.
“Most every time we get together to play it’s a good game,” Bessey head coach Shane Slicer said. “I thought we brought great intensity. There’s a lot on the line, you get an automatic bid if you get the No. 1 seed. If they won, we would probably be up against it and it sets up a showdown with them this weekend.”
Both teams stood atop Zone 2, with Rogers Post right on their tail, so emotions were high throughout the matchup. Williamson took the mound for the visitors but found himself in a hole to start.
Brock Belanger led off the bottom of the first with a base hit, then stole two bases and was brought home after the throw to third went out of play to give Pastime an early 1-0 lead.
Evan Cox was on the mound for Pastime just two days after he threw three-scoreless innings against Locke Mills. After escaping a jam in the first, Cox gave up a two-out single to Williamson, who then stole second. Jonny Pruett was next up and ripped a double down the third-base line to score the runner and tie the game 1-1.
Pastime scored two in the bottom half of the second thanks to singles from Owen Cox and Brodi Farinas. Belanger hit a double to score Cox, while Farinas scored on a sacrifice fly to take a 4-2 lead.
Evan Cox started to leave pitches in the zone for Bessey and he paid the price in the third, giving up four runs.
The inning got going when Janek Luksza got on base via a fielder’s choice, followed by a Kennison walk. Hunter LaBossiere loaded the bases for Chickering, who hit a double into right-center field, scoring two. Williamson later had an RBI single, followed by a walk from Pruett that scored a run, giving Bessey a 5-4 lead after two and a half innings.
Williamson got himself into another jam with two guys on and two outs and Owen Cox stepped to the plate. Williamson was able to strike Cox out swinging on a breaking ball going away, allowing Bessey to hang onto the lead.
“We were really trying to battle and stay in the game, get first place,” Williamson said. “That’s really what we were playing for. We knew this was a huge game and we had to come in prepared, have intensity in the dugout.”
In the top of the fourth, Rodney Bean was hit by the first pitch thrown by relief pitcher Lucas Francis. After moving to third on a couple ground balls, Bean scored off a LaBossiere single to increase Bessey’s lead to two. Francis was able to strike out Brayden Bean on the inside part of the plate on a 3-2 pitch to escape more damage.
Farinas led off the fourth for Pastime with a single and later was driven home by Evan Cox to cut the deficit in half. Both teams were showing their emotions after every run and every out.
“These are the games you play for, these are the games you live for,” Pastime head coach Jake Brown said. “I think I got everything out of my guys and it came down to a couple bounces. The first couple innings I thought we weren’t playing our type of game. I thought as the game progressed we got our approaches to the plate.”
Francis set down Bessey in order in the fifth on just nine pitches, followed by Williamson doing the same in the sixth with 12 pitches.
Pastime entered the bottom of the seventh down by two runs and needed a hero. Jack LeBlond led the inning off with a single to right, followed by a single from Evan Cox. Nick Lerette later walked to load the bases for Gordon Beckwith, who walked in a run. Owen Cox grounded into a fielder’s choice and the throw home was not in time as his brother Evan scored the tying run to force extras.
Bessey reliever Luksza, who took over in the seventh, settled down in the eighth by throwing just 15 pitches and getting the final out on a diving play in the infield to get the force-out at second.
“They know to stay motivated so we just had to score,” Williamson said. “I know Janek is a great pitcher, and he’s tough, so he was going to come out and shut them down.”
Pastime was retired in order in the bottom of the ninth to finish the win. However, Brown was urging his team after the game to focus on their next opponent, the Capitals, who they have a doubleheader with Saturday before a rematch with Bessey Motors on Sunday.
“We have two big games, then these guys back here Sunday, and then Auburn on Monday. Even with this loss, we control our own destiny. I told our guys that we put ourselves in this spot but we also have control of our own fate. We talked for a couple minutes on this game and then directly focused on the Capitals.”