LEWISTON – Justin Staires had been scuffling a little at the plate early in the American Legion Zone III season.

But with the wind blowing out at Franklin Pasture Saturday, he couldn’t have asked for a better setting to snap out of his funk.

Staires belted four home runs, including an inside-the-parker, and drove in eight to help Northern Oxford County salvage a split in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader against Gayton Post, 13-5.

Staires’ fireworks upstaged those of Devin Knight, who belted a pair of homers and knocked in five runs in the first game to lead Gayton to a 14-4 drubbing, which ended in the fifth inning due to the 10-run mercy rule.

Staires hit a two-run shot to left in the first, a solo homer to left in the second, chugged around the bases after poking one over the center fielder’s head to the fence for a three-run round-tripper in the third, then capped the display with a two-run blast to left-center in the fifth. He had a chance for number five in the sixth, but Will Emerson got him to line out to second.

“The way I played the first game (0-for-3), I didn’t expect to do anything in the second game,” Staires said. “I just saw the ball better in the second game. I was not hitting the ball well early in the season. I just wanted to see if I could get the ball up in the air and see how far it went.”

“I couldn’t have hit (the inside-the-park homer) better than I did,” added Staires, who hit eight home runs for Mountain Valley this season. “It’s wicked deep in center, so when I saw where the ball was landing, I said, ‘I’m going.”

“You really can’t say enough about the Staires kid. Justin’s just amazing,” said Northern Oxford coach Ryan Palmer. “If he finds a gap, it’s a guaranteed double or triple because he can fly. And I’ve never seen someone with as quick wrists as him.”

Northern Oxford (2-2) sent 10 men to the plate in the first and eight in the second to jump out to a 7-2 lead, more than enough for starter Chris Cayer, who helped himself with a pair of singles.

John Smith went 4-for-5 on the day with three runs scored and three runs batted in for Northern Oxford, while Matt Laubauskas had four hits and drove in a pair.

Knight finished the twin-bill with three hits, three runs scored and six RBIs. Sparked by his first home run, a two-run clout to left, Gayton (3-1) jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first game, then added five more in the second inning thanks in part to Knight’s three-run homer to left.

“For me, that was completely unexpected,” said Knight, who played for Lisbon. “I was just getting infield hits for both of my hits and then here, it just baffled me it went over the fence.”

“When the win blows out at Franklin Field, the ball carries,” said Gayton coach Todd Cifelli. “But I also think the balls that Devin hit and that Staires hit, some of those were no-doubters.”

Greg LaBonte had a pair of RBI singles in the first game and collected four hits and four RBIs on the day. Travis Dyke had four hits and scored three times. Eddie West had three hits and four RBIs overall and Erik Waite added a pair of singles and drove in two in the first game.

There were only four 1-2-3 innings the entire day. All nine starters got at least one hit and five players recorded two hits each in the first game for Gayton.

“We’re a solid hitting team. We put pressure on them right in the beginning, and they turned the tables on us in the second game,” Cifelli said.

Kyle Neagle picked up the win in the first game for Gayton.


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