Bryce Afthim was one of the top pitchers and hitters for a Windham team that went 12-6 during the American Legion season. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Two Portland-area baseball teams will be looking to upset powerhouse Bessey Motors in the eight-team American Legion state tournament, which starts this weekend.

Windham, which went 12-6 in the regular season, is the second seed from the South region. Charles J. Loring (11-7), which includes players from Cheverus, Deering and Gorham high schools, is the South’s fourth seed.

The tournament begins Saturday with four games at the John Winkin Baseball Complex on the Husson University campus in Bangor. This summer there were 16 teams playing Senior American Legion in Maine, a decline from its peak of 48 teams in 2007.

The top four teams from two eight-team regions qualified for the state tournament. The winner will play in the New England Regional, Aug. 7-11, in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

Bessey Motors, consisting solely of players from Class A North champion Oxford Hills, went 17-1 with a plus-133 run differential and is the top seed from the South.

“They’re pretty dang good,” said Windham Manager Cody Dube. “We played a doubleheader at their place. Neither team pitched their top two, so it was pretty even, and they beat us pretty good in both games.”

Saturday’s first-round games are South-North crossovers. Windham will face North No. 3 RH Foster/Hampden Academy (13-5), at 3 p.m., and Loring gets the North’s top seed, Bangor (14-4), at 5:30 p.m.

The double-elimination tournament continues with four games on Sunday and concludes with the championship on Wednesday.

Windham features two top pitchers in Bryce Afthim and Chris Naylor, with Thornton Academy’s Cam Seymour as a key reliever. Throughout the season junior-to-be Brady Afthim and Seymour have split the catching and relief pitching duties. Dube said he expects Brady Afthim to be attending a showcase event on Saturday and Sunday.

Dube said adjusting to players’ schedules is a big difference compared to when he played for a Windham team that won the state Legion tournament in 2012.

“Every week I have three to five kids say, ‘Hey coach, I won’t be there,’ and it is what it is, which is fine,” said Dube, who pitched briefly in the minor leagues.

Windham’s offense has been led by the Afthim brothers, Seymour, first baseman Ryan Sargent (four home runs) and middle infielder Caleb McCartney, the team’s No. 2 hitter.

The Cheverus team won the 2018 tournament when it was called Coastal Landscaping. This year the team is named in honor of Maj. Charles J. Loring, a Portland native, a decorated World War II and Korean War fighter pilot who died on his 50th Korean War mission. The former Loring Air Force Base was named in his honor.

“He was a Cheverus alum, Class of 1937,” said Mac McKew, the team’s general manager and assistant coach. “It keeps the American Legion theme with us and the bulk of this team are Cheverus kids.”

Matt Rogers is the team’s coach.

Justin Ray and 2018 Cheverus grad Conner MacDonald are the top two starters. Deering High’s Josh Paisley, a key offensive contributor as the No. 3 hitter, Aaron Goschke of Gorham, and Nick Giancotti (Cheverus) give Loring solid pitching depth.

Griffin Watson, a 2018 Cheverus grad, who played this spring at Fairfield University, is a mainstay at shortstop and as the leadoff hitter.

Deering’s Luke Hill (IF/OF), and Cheverus products Nate Rogers (OF), John Welch (1B/DH) and Chris Cimino (3B) have been steady offensive contributors. Kevin Connolly, who will be a sophomore at Cheverus, will handle the catching in the state tournament.

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