STANDISH – After seven years of knocking on the door in the American Legion state baseball tournament, Monmouth Post 204 appeared to kick that door to smithereens with a seven-run first inning in the championship game Thursday night.

So much for appearances. Monmouth needed five frantic outs from Travis Harwood, including two in the eighth inning with Bangor’s tying and then potential go-ahead run on base, to lock up an 8-6 win and the first state championship in its relatively brief history.

Post 204 advances to the regional playoff in Burlington, Vt., next week, where it will open with the New Hampshire champions on Thursday, August 16. Monmouth moved to 27-1, one day after suffering its first loss of the season to Bessey Motors of South Paris by one run.

“I think winning states is probably the best thing,” said Harwood, “but we also wanted to bounce back and show what kind of team we are. We wanted to show that it was just a bad game and that we should have won it.”

Monmouth was just forming as a Legion team in 1997, the last time an outfit outside of Portland won the state tournament. It is the only the fifth time in the 76-year history that a team from the current Zone 2 area has captured the crown. Gardiner Post 4 was the last in 1971.

Bangor (25-7) battled back from a 8-0 deficit in the second inning with one run in the third, three in the fourth and one in the seventh. Alex Gallant made it 8-6 with a one-out single in the top of the eighth that pushed home Shane Walton and spelled the end for Monmouth starer Mike Eaton.

“My plan was to go from Mike right to Travis,” said Monmouth manager Chad Drouin. “I was going to do it somewhere in the middle of that order, and I probably should have done it one hitter earlier, because Gallant had some good at-bats against Mike.”

Harwood didn’t wow Bangor with his velocity but left them flailing at his movement. The soon-to-be senior at Maranacook fanned Ian Edwards before walking tournament MVP Tom Crews with a three-ball, two-strike pitch to load the bases.

Scott Hackett ran the count to one-and-one before lofting a harmless popout to shortstop David Ricker to end the threat.

“I didn’t have my best stuff,” said Harwood, “but I got it done with what I had.”

Bangor went down in order in the ninth on a flyout by Tyler Barron, Harwood’s strikeout of pinch hitter John Cox and Kyle Vanidestine’s groundout to third baseman Tom Edgecomb.

Vanidestine, Walton, Gallant and Hackett each had two hits for Bangor, which outhit Monmouth, 10-9.

“When we got down 8-0, we just kept saying ‘chip away,’ and we did that,” said Bangor manager Fred Lower. “We took advantage of some of our opportunities, but not enough.”

Evidence of that: Five Monmouth errors and 13 Bangor runners stranded on base. The Comrades also left the bases jammed in the second and abandoned a pair in scoring position in the fourth.

“Of course I was (worried). You could probably tell by looking in the dugout a couple of times when I was having a stroke,” Drouin said. “The fourth inning was the worst inning of baseball this team has played all year long. We made more errors today than we probably did in any 10 or 12 games.”

Monmouth’s first-inning fury somewhat helped keep the boss’ blood pressure in check. The same potent order that scored seven runs in the seventh inning Tuesday night to shoo away Bangor by virtue of the mercy rule slugged out a seven-spot for starters in the title game.

No home runs were necessary this time. Monmouth’s first six hitters reached base. All scored. Sean Holbrook, Tavis Hasenfus, Eaton and Justin Denbow slapped consecutive singles in the station-to-station clinic.

“These kids I have been working with since they were little kids,” said Drouin, holding his open hand at his waist to simulate an 8-year-old’s height. “Every one of them has a great approach at the plate, and that’s what makes them different. They know that home run pitch when they see it.”

Eaton doubled to trigger the second inning, hastening Lower to pull starter Edwards in favor of Zach Leeman. The losing pitcher after going five innings in Tuesday’s 15-5 loss to Monmouth, Leeman pitched seven shutout innings of two-hit ball in his encore.

Denbow greeted Leeman with a single, but Wally Rines’ RBI fielder’s choice was the final offensive noise for Monmouth until Ethan Guerette’s base hit in the eighth.

Guerette, Holbrook, Eaton and Denbow each had two hits for Monmouth. Guerette, Eaton, Denbow and Josh Jillson were named to the all-tournament team along with Adam Lutz of New Auburn and Matt Verrier of Bessey Motors.

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