Pastime Club may have won the past two state American Legion championships under a different name, but trying to slide into this week's tournament under the radar is out of the question.
The eight-team, double-elimination tournament begins Wednesday with four games and runs through August 5 at The Ballpark at Old Orchard Beach.
Pastime (19-2), the Zone 3 champion which draws from Lewiston and Lisbon and won the 2010 and 2011 titles as Gayton Post, faces Zone 4 runner-up First Title (14-7) at 4 p.m. Pastime is trying to become the first team to win three consecutive state titles since Nova Seafood of Portland won four in a row (2001-04).
Pastime's roster is loaded with tournament experience, which is crucial not only in preparation for the pressure and improved competition, but also dealing with the grind of the tournament. Games are nine innings instead of seven, and playing five or six games over five days can take it's toll, physically and mentally.
"The veterans and the coaching staff can hearken back to some things that worked for us, such as playing one pitch at a time and staying in the moment," Pastime coach Todd Cifelli said. "I always say there are three or four games within a nine-inning game. You've just got to stay patient."
Cifelli and other coaches may have to stay patient with their pitchers, too, with the packed schedule and longer games. Pitching depth is a key to lasting in the tournament and Pastime has it with Corbin Hyde, Joe Sullivan, Luke Cote and Matt Bowen. The quartet combined to start all but one of Pastime's games and went 17-2. Chris Madden and Ryan Riordan, who picked up the win in the Zone 3 championship in relief, could also toe the rubber.
Not surprisingly, slugfests are the norm this time of year, and Pastime has the pop again to put crooked numbers on the board. Corbin Hyde has six home runs, including a grand slam in the zone final, while brother Mekae has hit a pair in seven games since returning from playing in a college summer league in Myrtle Beach. Cote, Madden, Sullivan, Bowen and Ben Wigant, who went deep in the zone championship, helped Pastime average more than six runs per game.
Hitting, pitching and defense (23 errors) have gotten Pastime this far, but Cifelli knows from experience Pastime will need an extra ingredient this week.
"You've got to catch some breaks in order to win. We've caught plenty of breaks along the way, but every championship team has," he said.
Wednesday's clash with First Title is a rematch of sorts. First Title is comprised of players from Cheverus High School, which beat Lewiston for the Class A state title in 2011. Pitcher Louis DiStasio and catcher Nic Lops were standouts for the Stags and helped First Title earn a berth in the state tournament with a 7-1 win over Cumberland last week. DiStasio pitched a four-hitter and struck out 14 while combining with Lops for six hits and four RBIs.
Play begins at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday with Zone 5 winner Fayette-Staples of Saco taking on Zone 4 champion Saco-Biddeford Savings of Westbrook. At 12:30 p.m., Zone 2 winner Post 51 (Messalonskee) will face Zone 3 runner-up Windham, which handed Pastime its only two losses this year.
Following the Pastime/First title matchup will be Zone 1 winner Bangor and Zone 2 runner-up Gardiner, which includes players from Oak Hill High School like Josh Martin, who tossed a two-hitter to defeat Kennebunk, 2-0, in last Saturday's play-in game.