Shane Slicer knew it was coming even before the storm clouds started gathering Thursday night.

Slicer’s Bessey Motors team had been scheduled to play for the Zone 3 American Legion championship Friday against Smith-Tobey of Bath. But when hard rains forced cancellation of the contest, time became as much of a factor as the weather.

Zone officials, faced with a national deadline to have the upcoming state tournament certified, decided to award Smith-Tobey the Zone 3 title and the accompanying automatic bid to the state tournament, which begins July 29. Bessey Motors, meanwhile, will have to qualify for a spot by winning a play-in game against Zone 5 runner-up Kennebunk scheduled for 4 p.m. at St. Joseph’s College.

Zone commissioner Bill Brackett said the choice was made based on the zone tournament seeding, which was based on run differential between the two 14-6 teams. They split a July 5 doubleheader, with Smith-Tobey winning 6-1 and Bessey winning, 6-4. That gave Smith-Tobey a 10-7 edge in total runs. 

“We’ve always done it by head-to-head,” said Brackett. “I know it wasn’t a fair way to do it, but we got caught in a bind.”

“Who’s to say we are the lower seed?” Slicer said. “We had the same
record. The run differential (tiebreaker) wasn’t in writing or anything
prior to the season.  If we score a couple more runs in the win, we get the better seed.”

“I think the kids deserve a chance to play for a zone championship,” he said.

Slicer noted that Bessey handed regular-season champion Gayton its only two losses this season, including Thursday’s semifinal, and believes a better tie-breaking system could have been used.

“I wish things were set up prior to the season on seeding, he said. “If you went with a Heal Point system or something like that, then we should be the champion. It’s too bad. But I saw it coming.” 

“At least we have a chance still,” he added, noting that 18-2 Gayton won’t get a chance despite its dominating regular season. “I feel bad for (Gayton coach) Todd (Cifelli). The way things were set up wasn’t right for him. He had the best team in the zone and he’s sitting at home.”

The Maine American Legion introduced a new format for the state tournament this year. Whereas the top two teams in each zone used to get a spot in the tournament, only one of the five zones is guaranteed two representatives. The runners-up in the four remaining zones must win play-in games to advance to the eight-team state tournament. 

Under the rotating format, Zone 1 got the two guaranteed spots this year, with the runners-up from Zone 3 and Zone 5 and Zone 2 and Zone 4 meeting for play-in games. Zone 2 will have the two automatic bids next year, Zone 3 in 2011 and so forth.

The state tournament runs through Aug. 2 in Augusta, followed by the Northeast Regional, slated to begin Aug. 6 in Manchester, N.H. Slicer hoped to have the zone final rescheduled for this weekend with the play-in games moved to Sunday or Monday, but Brackett said the Maine American Legion is running up against deadlines for the national tournament.

“(Saturday’s) game was etched in stone and couldn’t be moved,” Brackett said. “My understanding was that there are only two states left in the nation that had not finished their state tournaments, and we’re one of them.”

The wet weather has played havoc with Zone 3’s schedule all season, but not being able to decide the zone winner on the field was a nightmare scenario for first-year commissioner Brackett.  He said he sympathizes with Slicer and he expects some new contingency plans to be introduced next year to prevent it from happening again.

“I’ve had all this rain to deal with, and it’s been a learning process for me, for sure,” he said. “Just got to try to do things better and do them different in the future. We were lucky to get our season in the way we did. There’s just got to be some changes made in the future, and what they’re going to be, I’m not sure yet.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.