STANDISH – Rain-revised schedule or not, after the way the American Legion Baseball state tournament started out for Bessey Motors, the persistent gang from South Paris is thrilled to be around for Wednesday.

Matt Verrier’s three-run home run in the first inning, Dan Millett’s solo shot in the second and a brilliant long relief performance by little-used Ryan Yates boosted Bessey to a 7-4 victory Tuesday over Zone 3 nemesis New Auburn in an elimination game at Mahaney Diamond.

Bessey (18-9) gets a second opportunity to slay this year’s giant, undefeated Monmouth, at 3 p.m. today. If the team of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School and Fryeburg Academy students finds a way to pull off its third straight triumph after a 16-3 loss Saturday to Monmouth, it would play again at 6 p.m. for a berth in Thursday’s final.

“We can’t get by that lineup with anybody more than one-time through,” Bessey Motors manager Shane Slicer said of his pitching strategy for the next round. “We’ll probably go three-three-three. We feel lucky to be here this far.”

Playing with pride, poise and confidence against a familiar foe, Bessey struck immediately. Ethan Sutton reached on an error ahead of Yates’ infield single.

Verrier, headed into his sophomore year at Oxford Hills, next took advantage of a hanging slider from Brady Blackman, bound for his sophomore season at the University of Southern Maine, and deposited the one-ball, two-strike offering underneath the left field scoreboard.

“I knew we had to bring out some energy to beat these guys,” Verrier said. “We started off with that big hit and it paced us the whole game.”

Blackman floated a second-inning change-up to Millett with similarly disastrous results.

“Those gave us confidence,” said Slicer, “because Brady shut us down the only other time we faced him.”

New Auburn nudged back into contention on Derek Doucette’s RBI single in the second, then back-to-back doubles by Adam Lutz and Kevin Smith and an RBI groundout by Blackman for two runs in the third.

That ushered in Yates, a home-schooled high school senior and Oxford Hills athlete with a tricky, elongated wind-up, but a notoriously sore arm. With Slicer simply hoping for Yates to get Bessey out of the jam and continue with a bullpen by committee in the fourth, all Yates gave him was 6 2/3 innings of three-hit ball, striking out six while walking one.

“Coach said, ‘Be ready at any time.’ I haven’t pitched in a while,” said Yates. “I was just trying to throw strikes.”

NAL didn’t celebrate its next base hit until Doucette’s two-out single in the sixth, and Lutz’s two-out triple in the ninth preceded a wild pitch for the only run against Yates.

In between, Nigel Cromwell scored on an error in the fifth, Verrier doubled to set up Ben Goodall’s RBI single in the seventh, and Evan Humphrey (3-for-4 off the bench) plated Goodall with a ninth-inning triple.

Blackman gutted out a complete game despite cresting the 200-pitch plateau over a 48-hour period. He struck out seven, walked three and hit three batters.

“My arm is dead. I’m probably done for a while,” he admitted. “I just made a couple of mistakes today with pitches up in the strike zone.”

Bob Blackman also conceded that he probably managed his final Legion game after coaching his son and friends’ teams since their Little League days.

“Brady threw a lot, but you know, he wanted to go down fighting and finish it,” the elder Blackman said. “I was a little bit surprised at Yates. I’ll give him credit. It took us too long to solve that off-speed pitch. He definitely quieted us down, and that’s what won it for ’em.”


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