Bessey Motors came one win away from its ultimate goal of winning the American Legion state championship last season, falling to Bangor in a winner-take-all title game. 

The Zone 2 powerhouse hasn’t lost since.

Nearly halfway through the 18-game regular season and the state runners-up are unblemished through eight contests. It began with a doubleheader sweep of Locke Mills and continued with wins over Brunswick, Pastime, Gardiner and Highland Green. Bessey Motors was also awarded two wins via forfeit over Andy Valley. 

Three of those wins have come with post-graduate Riley Chickering on the mound. Chickering, now a member of the University of Maine at Farmington baseball team, was this year’s inaugural Zone 2 player of the week after picking up two wins and striking out 20 in the process. His third win came Friday against Brunswick when he allowed one unearned run in five innings. 

“Strong pitching,” Bessey Motors coach Shane Slicer said. “Riley’s 3-0 now, so that’s helpful that we’ve been able to get three starts out of him. I think defensively we’ve played well and we have some post-grads that are very good leaders. They come ready to play, they expect us to focus the entire time. There’s no goofing off. They’re all business and we do have a pretty strong lineup.”

Bessey Motors’ consistency is a mix of solid pitching, timely hitting and strong fielding. It’s held its last two opponents to four combined runs while scoring 20 of its own. In an 11-1 victory over Gardiner, Bessey Motors scored 10 runs with two outs.

“Everyone’s pitched well, we’ve field the ball well and we’ve hit the ball great,” Chickering said. “Those are the three big things and we’ve done them all very well so far. You can’t ask for much more out of your team.”

The top team in Zone 2 will find out just how good it is in the second half of the season with seven of its final 10 games coming against teams with .500 or better records. Bessey Motors has doubleheaders against Franklin County (8-1) and Rogers Post (5-3) as well as games against Pastime (6-3), Tri-Town (6-3) and Augusta (5-2) before the start of the region tournament. 

“We have a tough run coming,” Slicer said. “There’s some really good teams we haven’t played yet. We’ll see what happens.

Zone 2 flexing its competitive muscles

When the decision was made to expand Zone 2 from an eight-team field to a 12-team field, the idea was to create the most competitive zone in the state. 

With seven teams playing .500 or better baseball through the first half of the season, the Zone 2 commissioners and coaches got their wish. Bessey Motors (8-0) and Franklin County (8-1) sit atop the standings having not yet squared off this season. The two meet for a doubleheader Saturday morning in Paris. Franklin County hasn’t lost since splitting a season-opening doubleheader with Tri-Town.

The real fun involves teams 3-9. Playoff positioning is still cloudy to say the least, but it does appear that seven teams are fighting for six spots. The Zone 2 tournament takes the top eight teams, leaving Highland Green (4-5) and Locke Mills (4-5) on the bubble. Highland Green owns the tiebreaker, yet both are just two games out of the fourth spot. They meet again Thursday.

“This is the most competitive it’s been since ’06,” Zone 2 co-commissioner Todd Cifelli said. “Those four-, five-, six-seeded teams can win this thing and it won’t be a Cinderella story because they are strong ball clubs.” 

Currently, the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-seeded teams are Pastime (6-3), Tri-Town (6-3) and Rodgers Post (5-3). Pastime currently owns the tiebreaker with Tri-Town after a 4-1 victory on Friday. 

“We have a bunch of teams over .500 and some remarkably close games,” Cifelli said. “It’s kind of what we wanted to create from a Legion committee when we went to consolidate the zones. When you start counting through the teams that will likely make the zone tournament it’s going to be a very competitive zone tournament.” 

Gardiner (3-3) has more baseball left to play than the rest of the zone due to rainouts, but currently sits as the seven seed. Augusta (5-2) suffered just its second loss of the season Monday against Tri-Town, but occupies the third seed at the moment. 

Establishing a social media presence 

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Foursquare. Pinterest. Tumblr. 

For those participating in this year’s American Legion baseball season, an age demographic of 14-19, the chances of an athlete having at least one of the above-mentioned social media accounts is 99.9 percent (give or take .1 percent). And they’re constantly being checked, whether it’s on their iPhones, Androids, iPads, Surfaces, etc. 

Therefore, Cifelli opted to join Twitter in an attempt to keep players and fans of his respective zone updated with the latest scores and standings. Having a Zone 2 player of the week each week was also his idea. 

“I’m certainly not a social media master yet, but it’s the language kids speak nowadays, so I’m doing that to try and hook some kids to get them interested,” Cifelli said. “Doing the standings and by doing this player of the week thing it’s just some recognition of kids who are having great seasons and I think people should know about it.” 

Each week, coaches nominate certain players for the honor and send along that week’s statistics. Cifelli then has the final say as to who gets the nod. Bessey Motors’ Riley Chickering won the inaugural designation and Franklin County’s Amos Herron was recently named this week’s award winner. 

“It’s in the embryonic stage,” Cifelli said. “We’re not at a ballot process by any stretch of the imagination. We’ll do a player of the year and a coach of the year and the more participation from coaches we can get the better it can be. It’s something I wanted to try and do.” 


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