Rogers Post’s Gavin Bates steps on first base a moment too late as Pastime’s Nick Levette makes the out during Wednesday night’s baseball game in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — Pastime knew that a first-place seed and a first-round bye in the American Legion Zone 2 baseball playoffs were on the line in the regular-season finale against Rogers Post on Wednesday night.

In their 11th game in 13 days, Pastime scored four runs in the first two innings and never looked back, defeating Rogers 8-5.

“Beating Bessey and then coming here and beating these guys was really impressive,” Pastime head coach Jake Brown said. “I think when you get wins like that, it’s a team effort. Everyone on the team, everyone on the roster played a role.”

In the top of the first inning, Pastime leadoff batter Brock Belanger slapped a single and then stole second to immediately get into scoring position. Belanger moved over to third on a flyout by Hunter Landry and was driven home on a single from Jack Leblond. Two batters later, Pastime starting pitcher Lucas Francis drove an RBI single into the outfield to give himself a 2-0 lead against Rogers starting pitcher Damien St. Pierre.

“It is so much easier to pitch with a lead, and it helps me gather speed,” Francis said. “It helps me out and makes me trust my defense more.”

Francis then turned around and retired Rogers Post in order, including two groundouts.

“(Francis) challenges hitters, and that’s what I love about him,” Brown said. “He’s not going to walk guys and he hates to give up free bases. He challenges hitters, and our defense did a good job behind him.”

In the second, Nick Lerette and Gordon Beckwith drew walks off Rogers reliever Gavin Bates. Belanger hit a single that scored Lerette, and a wild pitch during the next at-bat scored Beckwith to increase Pastime’s lead to four runs.

“We have really tried to score first in games,” Brown said. “The top of our order is really good, they’re really fast, and I think when you get those guys going then we are a tough lineup.”

Francis gave up two runs in the second. St. Pierre drilled a double into deep left-center field, and a single by Ethan Brown scored St. Pierre. Two batters later, Gawain Tibbetts grounded into a fielder’s choice to bring home Brown.

“It’s hard to come back from a deficit like that,” Rogers head coach Dave Jordan said. “At one point we cut the lead to two, and I thought if we could hold it there we’d be set, but good teams do that to you.”

Francis settled down in the next two innings, giving up just one more run, in the fourth. After Brown struck out looking and said “that was ankle high,” he was ejected. The next batter, Mason Brushwein, walked and then was driven home on a double from Tibbetts.

Pastime led off the top of the fourth with a single by Beckwith, followed by a single from Belanger and an RBI double from Hunter Richardson. Landry capped off the electric fourth with a single that drove in two runners.

Brodi Farinas walked to start the fifth inning. Lerette followed with a single, then four batters later Landry hit a deep single to left field that scored Farinas to make it 8-3. Lerette also tried to score, but Oren Shaw’s throw from left was there in time for catcher Giles Paradie to tag out Lerette.

“I like how we fought. We stayed around,” Jordan said. “We always try to stay within four runs, especially on a field that’s not huge, where you have a chance. We just weren’t able to get enough guys on and get that big hit.”

Pastime’s bats weren’t able to push any more runs along after the fifth, leaving the door open for Rogers. Austin Brown hit a single in the fifth and later scored on a bases-loaded walk earned by Joel Stubbs.

In the seventh, Rogers got Austin Brown around the horn again after a walk and a sac fly by Paradie, but it wasn’t enough for the win.

“I am pretty confident,” Francis said. “We are a hot team right now, so I think whoever comes in front of us we can make a run. We can probably beat any team in the state right now, we are playing hot.”

Pastime’s Gordon Beckwith slides into home plate as Roger’s Post’s pitcher Gavin Bates rushes in to attempt the tag out during Wednesday evening’s baseball game in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Rogers Post’s Gavin Bates pitches during Wednesday night’s baseball game in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Pastime’s Lucas Francis pitches during Wednesday night’s baseball game in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Roger’s Post Damien St. Pierre slides into home plate as Pastime’s catcher Brock Belanger goes for the ball during Wednesday night’s baseball game in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Pastime’s Evan Cox reaches for the ball as Rogers Posts’ Austin Brown slides safely back to third base during Wednesday evening’s baseball game in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)


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