OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Pastime Club has taken the long road to two straight American Legion baseball state championships.
Unless the situational hitting and defense come around, this summer's path might be a short, straight journey home to Lewiston.
First Title of Maine rode the right arm, the bat and the legs of Louis DiStasio to a convincing 9-1 victory Wednesday in the opening round of the double-elimination state playoff at The Ballpark.
DiStasio, a Cheverus High School graduate bound for the University of Rhode Island on a baseball scholarship, pitched a four-hit complete game, allowing only an unearned run.
"I thought we had a good approach against him. Some guys started to put the ball in play, but at the end of the day it was just too much of a deficit," Pastime manager Todd Cifelli said. "I think you have to be in attack mode against him. What wins baseball games are big innings. We have to get a couple guys on and try to drive a big hit, and it just didn't happen against DiStasio."
It didn't help that Pastime was digging out of a hole all afternoon, and DiStasio's work as leadoff hitter was a primary reason. He had three hits, scored three runs and stole two bases.
First Title (17-7) moves into a Thursday winner's bracket game against the winner of Wednesday's late game between Gardiner and Bangor. Pastime (19-3) gets the loser of that game in an elimination contest at 12:30 p.m. today.
Win-or-else is nothing new for Pastime.
Two years and one name change ago, as Gayton Post, Pastime emerged from the play-in round to grab the title in South Portland. In its successful 2011 defense, Gayton overcame a second-day loss via the mercy rule to host Augusta.
"But if we're going to take the long way home, we have to get that situational hitting," Cifelli said. "And also one of our rallying cries coming into the game was not giving up free bases, and if we do, trying to limit the big inning. That turned out to be too much to overcome for us against a guy that threw a great, great game."
DiStasio struck out eight without issuing a walk.
Armed with leads of 1-0 in the first, 2-0 in the third, 3-0 in the fourth and 9-0 in the sixth, DiStasio's confidence and pace both accelerated throughout the game. Pastime's willingness to watch first-pitch strikes seemed only to increase his advantage.
"If they're going to watch pitches then I'm going to throw strikes," DiStasio said. "Once you get into a rhythm you don't even realize what you're doing until the ump tells you to slow down."
DiStasio retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced after Pastime scored its lone run in the sixth on a Luke Cote single, a DiStasio throwing error and a Mekae Hyde groundout.
Shawn Ricker, Joe Sullivan and Ben Wigant had the only other hits for Pastime, all singles.
First Title used DiStasio's speed to manufacture a run from the get-go. After his leadoff single and stolen base, Nic Lops executed a sacrifice bunt and Harry Ridge reached on an error to put runners at the corners.
Ridge faked a steal of second and got himself caught in an intentional rundown. DiStasio broke for home on the second throw, and Pastime gave up the run in favor of the out.
"Getting on the board first establishes us. All of sudden we have the lead and he's pitching," First Title coach Mac McKew said. "That first run, he and Lops and Ridge have been getting it for us all summer, and then good luck to the other team."
Two-out singles by DiStastio and Lops produced a run in the third thanks to an errant cutoff throw. This time Lops ran himself into a pickle, but DiStasio crossed the plate before the third out was recorded.
Drew Ferrick's RBI double made it 3-0 in the fourth, and First Title chased Pastime starter Corbin Hyde with a six-run outburst in the sixth.
Ridge led off with a triple and DiStastio and Lops later banged back-to-back doubles. Pastime also issued two walks in the frame and committed another of its four errors.
Ryan Riordan pitched three shutout innings in relief, possibly helping to preserve Pastime's bullpen for the later rounds.
"I thought Corbin threw pretty well today," Cifelli said. "We had his earned runs down. He made some good pitches."