SOUTH PARIS — Erik Henderson had to wait about 90 minutes between pitching the third and fourth innings of Game 1.

Alex Wong had to wait about 30 minutes between pitching in Game 1 and Game 2.

The layoffs didn’t seem to matter. In fact, they may have helped a little bit as both Henderson and Wong pitched their respective teams to what was, at least for the time being, a split doubleheader between Bessey Motors and Gayton Post at soggy Gouin Athletic Complex on Sunday.

Henderson and Bessey won Game 1, 3-2. Game 2 was suspended after five innings due to darkness. For now, it stands as an 8-1 win for Wong and Gayton (and Bessey’s first loss of the season) . However, if Gayton sweeps its three remaining games and Bessey loses one of its remaining five in the final week of the regular season, the game will be picked up in the top of the sixth inning and completed. The zone’s regular season champion earns a bye into the play-in game for the state tournament.

So the only regular season meeting between the top two teams in Zone 3 still remains unresolved. The only thing set in stone is Bessey’s Game 1 victory, and that wasn’t cast in stone until Henderson struck out Joe Sullivan on a 3-2 curve ball with the tying and go-ahead runs on base in the seventh inning.

It was a fitting ending to Henderson’s day, which included a rain delay of well over an hour. The righthanded hero of Oxford Hills’ 1-0 Class A championship win over Biddeford did what he did so well in that game — leave runners on base. He stranded a dozen Gayton runners after surrendering six hits, six walks and four hit-batsmen.

“I felt better (after the delay) than when I first started,” Henderson said. “I didn’t throw that great at all today. I was wild. I haven’t really pitched a lot like I did in the school season. There’s been a lot of layoff, and I was way out of rhythm today.”

“(Henderson going back in) really came down to the fact that he felt good and we have game after game coming,” Bessey coach Shane Slicer said. “He hasn’t pitched a whole lot of innings since the Bethel start, which is awhile ago. The delay was a little longer than I expected, but I thought he looked fairly sharp coming out of it. He gutted it out.”

Wong replaced Gayton starter Mat Gordon after the downpour, inheriting a two-on, one out situation. He walked the first batter he faced, Kyle Kenniston, to load the bases, then struck out Matt Verrier on a nasty 0-2 curve. But Gayton’s euphoria was brief because Brandon Chase cleared the bases with an opposite field triple near the right-field line.

“When I struck out Verrier, I was pretty proud of myself,” Wong said. “I thought to myself, ‘I got out of this threat,’ but right after him, triple.”

After stranding five runners through the first three innings, Gayton (13-2) finally broke through in the fourth when Alex Parker hit a line-drive single just over the glove of a leaping Kenniston at second base to drive in Sullivan and make it 3-1. Corbin Hyde made it 3-2 in the fifth with a sacrifice fly to score Wong, but Gayton could have done more damage having stranded two runners in each of those two innings.

“It’s something that you can’t change your swing for. All you can do is try to hit the ball hard, and I thought we hit the ball hard today,” Gayton coach Todd Cifelli said. “But Bessey has a great defense and they made some plays, and Erik Henderson, we’re not the first team that he’s stranded runners against.”

Wong threw the final 3 2/3 innings of Game 1. After Chase’s triple, he retired 10 of the last 11 batters in Game 1, then 12 of the first 13 in Game 2. He threw 117 pitches overall and gave up just two hits, including an infield single, and an unearned run in Game 2.

“Pitch count is very, very important to us, but it’s not the sole thing,” Cifelli said. “We liked his velocity. He’s a very honest player. He checked in and he said he felt good. The other thing, too, was I thought his curve ball had some good bite on it. All those logistics should determine it more than a pitch count.”

“I think pitching the first game definitely helped me in the second,” Wong said. “I got to see everybody in their lineup a couple of times before I came back out.”

Bessey (11-1) committed five errors in Game 2. In the four-run second, Bessey starter Evan Humphrey allowed just one ball out of the infield, an RBI single by Scott Ouellette. But two infield hits, two walks and an error put Bessey in an early hole.

Gayton did a much better job driving runners in in the nightcap. Mekae Hyde ripped a two-run double to make it 6-0 in the fourth. In the fifth, Parker and Ouellette each drove in a runner from third with ground balls.

“We’ve been struggling with men in scoring position all year,” said Wong, who plays for Division III Wentworth. “In that second game, we had a mentality that we wanted to get hits with men on base.”

“You got to give credit, Wong pitched awesome,” Slicer said. “The kids had no fight left. For our (Oxford Hills) varsity kids, they had 21 straight wins and they just weren’t hungry anymore. Evan was struggling, we got down 4-0, and we weren’t hitting Wong.”


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