STANDISH – Mike Eaton rounded third base and trotted into a mass of humanity surrounding the plate at Mahaney Diamond. It was the Monmouth Post 204 American Legion baseball team, jumping and hollering in unison and slapping the conquering hero on the back as if he were David Ortiz.

He’d done plenty to deserve it, belting a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning to invoke the mercy rule in a 15-5 victory Tuesday evening over Bangor. But the celebration didn’t sit well with Monmouth manager Chad Drouin and at least one of his more seasoned players.

“We’re not done,” somebody cautioned.

Well, pretty close.

Monmouth (26-0) clinched a berth in the championship round, where Post 204 is guaranteed to meet an opponent it has already shredded once through three days of scintillating offense and lights-out pitching.

“That’s a big boost to know we can beat a team like that with that score,” said Eaton, one of four players on Monmouth’s 18-man roster who graduated from high school more than a year ago.

Staked to a 6-0 lead, left-hander Justin Denbow carried a one-hit shutout through five innings before surrendering three runs in the sixth and yielding to Eaton in the seventh.

No matter. Eaton’s blast to right field capped a seven-run rally for Monmouth to close it out.

Bangor reliever Neal Russell hit Wally Rines with a pitch, yielded a single to Josh Jillson and plunked David Ricker to christen the inning before he was yanked in favor of Jordan Clarke.

Clarke balked home Rines prior to Tom Edgecomb’s two-run double. Ethan Guerette’s fourth hit of the day pushed home Edgecomb to make it 12-5.

Sean Holbrook singled to give Tavis Hasenfus the first chance to send the fans scurrying to their cars, but he flied deep to center for the only out of the inning. Next up, Eaton went deep on a 2-2 delivery.

“Again, it’s that big inning, right? All summer, the two and three-spots haven’t been the really big innings for us,” Drouin said. “It’s been something like this. It came at the right time.”

The early ending meant that Drouin didn’t have to coax another inning out of Eaton, who started the tournament opener Saturday. That makes him available behind University of Maine-bound ace Jillson, who hasn’t pitched since the Zone 2 tournament and will take the hill at 3 p.m. today against Bessey Motors.

Win, and Monmouth gets a chance to cement the title at 6 p.m. against the winner of an elimination game between Bangor and Fayette-Staples of Saco. Even in the worst-case scenario of its first loss, Monmouth would automatically advance to a one-game championship Thursday as the final unbeaten team.

Denbow, who is considered the No. 2 guy despite allowing only one previous earned run all summer, fought off a strained hip flexor to strike out 10, while allowing four hits and walking five.

“He’s been hurt the whole tournament, but he battled through it,” said Eaton, “and now we’ve got our best pitcher going tomorrow.”

Monmouth’s hitting (41 runs in three games) has afforded the luxury of letting its hampered hurlers heal. In addition to Guerette’s four singles, Jillson went 3-for-4 with a home run. Eaton and Denbow each chalked up two hits and combined for six RBIs.

Alex Gallant and Tom Crews homered for the Comrades. Five of the six runs off losing pitcher Kyle Leeman were unearned.

“They’re a good staff. We’re going to run into them again, and we’re going to see their best pitching,” Drouin said. “It’s going to be tough to beat them again, but I think we’re ready for the task.”


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