When the American Legion Baseball season started this summer, Shane Slicer thought his team at Bessey Motors had a pretty good opportunity for success.

“I thought we had a good team,” said Slicer. “I knew some other teams had some young kids. So that eliminated them from being as strong as us. We’re probably one of the oldest teams in the league. I thought we had a chance to win the zone. I knew we had a good team, I didn’t realize we’d be as consistent as we have been.”

Bessey has been the top club in Zone 3 all season and claimed the regular season title, finishing 16-2 . It enters the Zone 3 tournament Sunday as a strong favorite.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Slicer said. “The kids have shown up. That’s the biggest thing, getting the commitment from the kids. We’ve pitched really well. We’ve defended very well and our bench was excellent. A lot of teams have trouble getting numbers. That’s statewide. We’ve had our own issues with only having 11 or 12 at games, but it hasn’t really mattered which 11 or 12 show up because of our depth. I think our depth was really key to winning the regular season championship.”

Bessey will host No. 8 Windham (5-13) Sunday at 9:30 a.m. The other quarterfinal games, all slated for Sunday at 11 a.m., include: No. 7 Highland Green (6-12) at No. 2 Brunswick (14-4); No. 6 Locke Mills (7-11) at No. 3 Pastime Club of Lewiston (13-5); and No. 5 Rogers Post of Auburn (10-8) at No. 4 Tri-Town (12-6). Al

Depth is often a factor at this time of year when games get squeezed together and other activities get in the way. Between work, family vacations and other commitments, getting all the pieces together can be a challenge.

“There’s so many variables in the summer that you don’t have in the spring,” said Pastime coach Dave Jordan. “I think the team that can get the core of their guys there have the best chance of winning.”

That can be especially tough this week because of weather that washed out many late-season games. The Zone 3 tourney was supposed to begin Saturday, but was pushed back to Sunday because of rainouts this week. That had Bessey playing a doubleheader Saturday at Brunswick to finish the regular season.

“We’ve kind of already established what we want to do for the tournament,” said Slicer, whose team had already secured the top-seed in Zone 3. “So it was more of less about getting some playing time for guys that deserved it and fine tuning.”

With the second, third and fourth spots still undetermined and the final seedings up for grabs as well, some teams were playing important games Friday or Saturday.

Jordan’s team was fortunate. They didn’t have to play Friday because of a forfeit. They finished the regular season 13-5 and last played Thursday, giving them two full days off.

“We’ll be pretty fresh,” said Jordan, whose team won the Zone 3 tourney last year. “We’re in good position anyway. We were able to do a really good job keeping up with our makeups during the regular season. So going into last Tuesday’s game, we were caught up. Some teams had two or three makeups this week and with the weather they are definitely getting tight on innings and pitching.”

Despite the doubleheader Saturday, Slicer says his team will be ready Sunday. Slicer had an experienced club led by post-grad pitchers Ryan Godin and Mike Mageles, and a pair who were part of Oxford Hills’ Eastern A semifinal squad, Dalton Rice and Riley Chickering. Bessey also has St. Dom’s started Mitch Lorenz, giving the club a talented and deep rotation.

“We have a lot of options,” Slicer said. “We have three, four or five guys that we can throw out there Sunday.”

Bessey had an early exit last year despite a strong regular season, getting knocked out by Bethel in the quarterfinals.

Between playing in the Eastern Maine championship game in the spring and a number of makeups during the summer season, it taxed Bessey’s lineup. By tournament time, it was a struggle.

“It wore us down,” Slicer said. “It wore our arms down. I think we have a much deeper pitching staff right now. Last year, we had some sore arms. Our health wasn’t very good going into it,  and I think we just got tired out.”

Slicer said his club is in far better shape going into tourney play this year.

Jordan’s team is poised to make a good run, as well. Pastime used a lot of pitching during the season when it bunched many games together to stay ahead of mounting makeup games.

“We have some veteran guys that have some experience,” Jordan said. “We have other guys that are pretty eager. We’ve played some pretty good ball recently. For us, it’s a matter of getting the big hit when we have guys on base. If we can do that, we’ve been playing solid defensively and pitching-wise, it’s just a matter of what offense we have that day.”

Other than Bessey’s success over most of the league, the rest of the field has been pretty competitive. That could mean for some pretty good baseball Sunday as well as the semifinals Monday and the championship game Tuesday at Saint Joseph’s College.

“If you go down through, quite a few teams have pitching at the bottom of the brackets that could keep them close,” Jordan said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few upsets along the way.”

The state tourney begins with a play-in game Saturday, July 26. The Zone 3 runner-up will play at 3 p.m. The Zone 3 champion won’t start tourney play until July 30 at 10 a.m.

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