American Legion baseball in Maine has a bit of a different look to it this season, and with that new look comes an element of unpredictability and intrigue. 

Gone is the five-zone format that’s graced the American Legion landscape for the past six years, now condensed to four zones due to lower turnouts across the state. 

Zone 2 received the biggest facelift, expanding from six teams to 12. Augusta, Franklin County and Gardiner remain in Zone 2 and are joined by Andy Valley, Bessey Motors, Bethel, Brunswick, Highland Green, Pastime, Rogers Post, Smith Tobey and Tri Town, all members of Zone 3 last year. 

“I like the change up,” Zone 2 co-commissioner Todd Cifelli said. “A step that makes everyone better is good competition. How Legion’s moved to four zones has made Legion baseball more competitive. It was a step in the right direction to do that. That will make teams and coaches and players better.” 

Post 51 of Oakland, Midcoast of Rockland and Madison-Skowhegan move to Zone 1 after calling Zone 2 home last season. The new Zone 1 features 10 teams, including defending state champion Bangor. Both the Portland-based Zone 3 and York County-based Zone 4 field eight teams. 

The changes to Zone 2 make it that much more competitive with only two spots to the state tournament up for grabs. The old Zone 3 had been represented in the state championship game every year since 2008.


“It’s a very competitive zone,” Rogers Post coach Dave Jordan said. “Getting to the state tournament will definitely be a feat. It’s going to be a grind having nine-inning games and things like that. The team that wins will have to have a lot of pitching and will be battle-tested.” 

Bessey Motors (Oxford Hills) finished state runners-up to Bangor last year and Windham — the only team from last year’s Zone 3 that didn’t make the move to Zone 2 — won it all in 2013. Pastime (Lewiston) won its fourth consecutive zone championship last year and has appeared in five successive state tournaments, winning titles in 2010 and 2011 under Cifelli. 

Pastime is under new management as Andrew Cessario takes over at the helm after coaching Lewiston High School during the spring. Cessario replaces Jordan, who finished 17-7 in his final year with Pastime. 

Cessario has a number of familiar faces on his roster. He coached 14 of them at Lewiston in the spring. 

“There’s some graduate students and some seniors who were on my Lewiston team that are coming back and playing Legion,” Cessario said. “There’s some camaraderie on the team because these kids have played together in the past summers and a lot played together this past year on the Lewiston team.” 

Pastime also draws from Lisbon, meaning it’ll have John Winkin Award finalist Kyle Bourget at its disposal. Bourget’s pitching arm will play a pivotal role if Pastime is to win its fifth straight zone title. 


“We’re going to have to pitch and play defense,” Cessario said. “To come out of this zone as the one or the two, you’re going to have to pitch and play defense. That’s what wins ball games, in my opinion. I think we have the team that can pitch and play defense.” 

Bessey Motors is expected to contend for the Zone 2 crown after winning the regular-season crown in its final year in Zone 3. Bessey Motors finished the 2014 campaign 22-5 and advanced to the state championship game. 

Rogers Post will be in the mix as well with the majority of its roster comprised of kids from Edward Little, which finished second during the Eastern A regular season. Rogers Post also pulls from St. Dominic Academy. Rogers Post will welcome back post graduates Mike Hammond and Mickey Lawrence to bolster its pitching staff. 

The move to Zone 2 places Rogers Post in the same zone as Franklin County, a Farmington-based Legion program that pulls most of its team from Mt. Blue. Edward Little’s season ended at the hands of Mt. Blue in the quarterfinals this season, but Jordan said the American Legion season isn’t about avenging losses during the high school year. 

“It’s a different season,” Jordan said. “We look at summer ball as a different season with a lot of good teams. It’s a good opportunity to compete and prove our skills and extend the overall baseball season for a month or month-and-a-half. But we’re just looking forward to getting out there and playing against good quality teams this summer.” 

Eight teams from the 12-team zone will qualify for the zone tournament. The first round will be single elimination, followed by a four-team double-elimination format to determine the two state tournament berths. The double-elimination tournament will feature nine-inning games.


The Zone 2 tournament will be held in Augusta. According to Cifelli, this will be the first time teams from the old Zone 3 will play a zone tournament all in one area. 

The move from five zones to four is just one of the changes in American Legion baseball this season. With the elimination of a zone, each zone will now have two teams represented in the state tournament. In recent years, four of the five zone tournament runners-up would be forced to take part in play-in games to reach the state tournament. 

Winning your regular-season title no longer grants you immunity from an early exit in the postseason. In past years, the team that finished atop its respective zone in the regular season could finish no worse than the No. 2 seed in the zone tournament, assuring it at least a chance to play at states.

Now, if the regular-season champion doesn’t advance to the zone championship game, its season is over. 

The state tournament is July 29 to Aug. 2 in South Portland.

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