BANGOR — Bessey Motors never relinquished its early lead but had to fend off multiple comeback attempts by Hampden to win 7-6 Monday and stay alive in the American Legion baseball state tournament.

Bessey took a 3-0 lead in the top half of the first inning after starting with singles by Cam Slicer and Rodney Bean and a double by Janek Luksza, who pitched a complete game.

Luksza settled in on the mound nicely, as well, not allowing a run in the first three innings.

Bessey added another run in the top of the fourth. Ashton Kennison reached base on a double and was moved to third on a single by Wyatt Williamson. Two batters later, Jonny Pruett put down a suicide squeeze bunt down the third base line that scored Kennison to make it 4-0.

“Jonny was great,” Bessey head coach Shane Slicer said. “The suicide squeeze gives us an extra run in the last inning. You can look back at the suicide squeeze and say that was huge in the outcome.”

Hampden got on the board in the fourth when Brandon Smith led off the inning with a single and then took advantage of a pair of Bessey Motors errors to score and cut the deficit to three runs.

Hampden scored two more in the fifth via singles from Mychal Beaulieu and Grant that made the score 4-3.

Feeling the pressure, Bessey knew they needed some insurance runs to escape with a win. Fortunately, they were hitting well.

“We haven’t been hitting the ball that good all tournament, but we hit the ball pretty good today,” Luksza said. “Yesterday we went and took an extra BP, which helped a lot.”

With two outs in the sixth and two runners on, Pruett slapped a ball to third baseman Nick Lorenzo, who overthrew first, allowing Kennison and Brayden Bean to score and make it a 6-3 game.

“I was looking first-pitch fastball, but I didn’t get that,” Pruett said. “I was just trying to rip it to try and get the runners at second and third to score, and I ended up just hitting a little blooper. But it worked out because they ended up making an error. I just wanted to do something for the team.”

Luksza sat down Hampden on seven pitches in the sixth to set up Bessey’s last chance to deliver runs. Luksza singled in the top of the seventh and was brought home later on a sacrifice fly by Hunter LaBossiere to push the lead to 7-3.

Hampden’s first two batters in the bottom half of the seventh reached base then scored on Brandon Smith’s double. Luksza later allowed Smith to score to make it a one-run game, but Slicer was confident in his pitcher’s ability to close the game.

“It was close, we had guys ready to go in, it’s just Janek has been in that position a lot and he’s as tough as we got,” Slicer said. “If we were going to lose that game, the guy we wanted out there was Janek.”

Luksza was able to finish the game and get the win.

“I was just trying to throw strikes,” Luksza said. “I knew I had a good defense behind me and tried to get them to ground out or pop up. They hit the ball hard.”

Ashton Kennison is late applying a tag at first base for Bessey Motors. (Adam Robinson/Sun Journal)


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