BANGOR — Even if Bessey Motors forgot coach Shane Slicer’s message to be more aggressive at the plate Friday, Pastime Club pitcher Lucas Francis wasn’t giving it much choice in the matter.

Francis threw nothing but strikes to start the elimination game, so Bessey hitters started swinging earlier in counts and started finding gaps. They were also aggressive on the base paths, and gave their starter, Janek Luksa, some wiggle room.

Luksa grinded through eight innings and Pastime stranded 11 base runners as Bessey edged its Zone 2 rival, 3-2, in the state American Legion tournament at the Winkin Complex on the campus of Husson University.

Bessey Motors will face the winner of Friday night’s winner’s bracket game on Saturday. The game will either be at 1 p.m. or 4 p.m. depending on the outcome of the rest of Friday’s games.

“I wanted us to be more aggressive,” Slicer  said.  “We changed the lineup a little bit (coming off a 2-0 loss to Bangor on Thursday). I think we had to be aggressive. Francis, I think, threw 15 straight strikes to start the game.”

Attacking the strike zone allowed Francis to cleanly navigate the Bessey lineup with 19 pitches in the first three innings.

Cam Slicer, Shane’s son, ended that by ripping the first pitch of the fourth into the right-center gap for a triple, punctuated by a double-fist-pump at third.

“The last couple of days we were striking out a lot more than we expected to,” Cam Slicer said. “It was a fastball. I usually don’t swing first pitch, but I got it and said, ‘might as well go with it.'”

With one out, Brayden Bean sent him home with the dribbler through the middle of a drawn in Pastime infield.

Another leadoff extra base hit, this a double by Ashton Kennison, got Bessey going again in the fifth. Two ground outs to the left side kept him there until Blake Slicer’s triple made it 2-0.

Brother Cam followed with a walk, then sauntered off of first base to draw a throw for a delayed double steal. The first throw of the run down, to second base, was enough to get Blake out of the starting block, and he easily beat the throw home to score what proved to be the winning run.

“Just trying to get  a throw so we could get home,” Cam Slicer said. “We did it in the regular season a little bit, he obviously knew the sign, so it was good to get that run across there.”

“We were in a situation with two strikes on the batter and we just needed something to happen,” Shane  Slicer said. “I figured they’d probably let Cam go and we’d gain a runner at second. Getting that third run was crucial.”

Francis went the distance for Pastime, yielding six hits and three earned runs, striking out two, walking one and hitting a batter.

“He did his job,” Pastime coach Jake Brown said. “Only letting up three runs in the state tournament while keeping his pitch count really low. Actually, our pitchers all tournament did their job. We just couldn’t get that timely hit.”

Luksa (six hits, four walks, two strikeouts and one earned run in eight innings) had two clean innings, the second and fifth. He stranded one in the first, two in the third, one in the fourth, two in the sixth and seventh and one in the eighth.

“Janek battled,” Shane Slicer said.  “He’s tired, just like probably Francis was tired. But give Pastime credit. We’ve had some really good games this year. That’s why our zone at times is very good. We get those games — 16-inning game the other day (in the zone final), 3-2 game today — it’s fun, and that competition is helpful.”

“I just worked hard,” Luksa said.  “I knew I had a great defense behind me so I just tried to throw strikes and they’d make the plays. My stuff wasn’t working the greatest.”

Pastime outhit Bessey, 8-6, and had five others reach via walk. But it didn’t break through until the seventh when Brock Belanger delivered a two-out RBI single to make it 3-1.

“We definitely had the opportunities,” Pastime coach Jake Brown said. “The last two games it was the same issue. We just  left too many guys on base. I think the difference was they found gaps in the outfield and we didn’t find any gaps in the outfield.”

Having exceeded the 120-pitch limit by one pitch, Luksa had to be lifted for the ninth. Troy Johnson relieved him and got the first two hitters on a fly out and ground out before Hunter Richardson kept the inning alive with an infield hit and went second on a wild throw to try to get him at first.

After a walk to Belanger, Hunter Landry singled to score Richardson and make it 3-2 and put the tying and go-ahead runs on. But Johnson got Francis to line out softly to shortstop to end it.

Richardson had two hits for Pastime, Kennison two hits for  Bessey.

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