AUGUSTA — A day after playing a game-and-a-half worth of baseball, Rogers Post needed to dip into its pitching depth in an elimination game against suddenly surging Skowhegan on Saturday.

Two young and inexperienced pitchers combined for a solid outing for Rogers Post, which pulled ahead late for a 6-3 victory at Morton Field on day four of the American Legion baseball state tournament.

“We knew that we had some guys pitching-wise that really could use another day’s rest,” Rogers Post manager Dave Jordan said. “We knew Skowhegan was a very good team, but we figured if we could get guys out there that could throw strikes, some guys with fresh arms … if they threw strikes, and we fielded behind them, it would be a great rallying cry for us.”

Tyler Libby was tasked with starting the game on the mound for Rogers Post. He pitched into the seventh, then after giving up a one-out single with the game tied, Ethan Brown took over and finished the job.

“The real talk is Ethan Brown and Tyler Libby coming out and throwing strikes, shutting the door,” Rogers Post right fielder Gavin Bates said. “They weren’t just throwing their strikes, they were hitting their spots, they were throwing low.”

While Libby and Brown kept the Skowhegan offense — which scored a combined 23 runs in its previous two games — at bay, Bates provided the knockout punch for Rogers Post late.

Entering an at-bat with two on and one out in the bottom of the eighth and 0-for-3 on the day, Bates looped a double into right-center to drive home two runs. He later scored on a wild pitch for the final Rogers Post run.

“We needed a hit. There was a few guys on base, tied game,” Bates said. “And I just needed to get my hips through the ball. I kept popping up, grounded out. I knew I was hitting the ball. I had the confidence. A nice, warm day, so you just got to let the ball travel.”

Bates and his fellow outfielders — left fielder Jarod Norcross-Plourde and center fielder Tyler Blanchard — were plenty busy in the early innings, recording six fly-ball outs and following five hits through five innings. Bates said the sun was a factor, especially when he couldn’t get to a foul fly, but Rogers Post played an error-less nine innings.

“We spoke to our younger (pitchers) and said, ‘Your job is not to have superman complex. All you have to do is hit the mitt. Hit the mitt, let your fielders do the work,'” Jordan said. “They’re a good hitting, a very good hitting team, a very good team. But if you hit the mitt, give us a chance in the field.”

“I have really good fielders behind me,” Libby, who admitted to being nervous at times, said. “I just went out with a really big confidence, knowing that if I messed up, my team behind me would help me a lot.”

Skowhegan’s defense let down pitchers Dustin Crawford and Chase Malloy at times. Rogers Post took a 3-2 lead in the fifth thanks to an off-target throw on Blanchard’s lead-off infield single, which allowed him to get to second. A sacrifice bunt followed by a sacrifice groundout drove in the run.

A fielding error on Drew Lashua’s hard grounder down the first-base line started off the three-run eighth inning. Two batters later Grant Hartley drew a walk after a long at-bat, then Bates followed with his two-run double.

Skowhegan took a 2-0 lead in the third. Evan Bess led off with a single, then Adam Turcotte walked. An infield fly, followed by a fielder’s choice started by Austin Cox’s diving stop at short got Libby within one out of getting out of the jam, but Crawford doubled in the two base runners.

“I felt nervous when they scored two, but I knew my team could go out there and get the bats going,” Libby said.

Rogers Post did just that, equaling the two-run output in the bottom half of the frame. No. 9 hitter Ben Harris was hit by a pitch to lead off, then Blanchard moved him over with a sacrifice bunt. Cox singled to put runners at the corners, then after Norcross-Plourde drew a walk and Lashua popped out, Lew Jensen brought home two runs with a single to left. Cox was safe on a close play at the plate, avoiding a tag by Will Stinson.

“He’s just such a focused guy, and he’s got an uncanny ability to really focus on that moment exactly what he needs to do, whether it’s in the field, at the plate,” Jordan said of Cox, who had three hits, a hit-by-pitch and a sacrifice bunt in the win.

Crawford was matching Libby on the mound into the fourth inning. He scattered four hits, two walks and a hit batter while striking out four, including one that was the second out of the fourth. Then Harris ripped a grounder right back up the middle that Crawford reached for, and in the process hurt his right leg. Shortstop Cody Lawyerson got to the ball for the put-out, but Crawford stayed down on the mound before EMTs came to check on him. He was helped off by teammates and didn’t return to the game.

Skowhegan tied the game in the top of the sixth thanks to a two-out walk drawn by Stinson, followed by singles from Malloy and Mike Berry.

Libby said he wanted to stay in the game after Turcotte singled in the seventh, but he was Brown’s biggest fan in getting out of the inning with a fielder’s choice and a pop-out.

“I wanted to be out there, but it was Coach’s decision,” Libby said. “And he made the right decision because Ethan went out there and pitched very well.”

Rogers Post lives on to play in the final day of the tournament. The work done by Libby and Brown means Jordan can turn to the top of his pitching staff with a possible state title on the line.

“We know we’re going to see a great opponent, whoever it is,” Jordan said immediately after Saturday’s game. “We feel like we gave our more veteran guys a little bit more rest. And that was good, we needed that.”

Rogers Post will face Yankee Ford at noon Sunday. The winner of that game will face Coffee News in the state championship game. Yankee Ford handed Coffee News its first loss of the tournament, 9-7, in Saturday’s second game.

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