Coach Shane Slicer talks to the Bessey Motors Legion team on Thursday about travel logistics for their tournament this weekend at Husson University. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Chemistry is key in baseball. 

Chemistry in a team is clear in sports like basketball and hockey, where the ball or puck is moving between teammates that can anticipate their teammate’s next move, but coaches and players on Oxford Hills-based Bessey Motors agree that it’s the most important aspect of their team. 

“Chemistry is probably the top thing,” Bessey Motors coach Shane Slicer said. “If you have a group of kids that understand their roles, it means everything. There’s no selfishness, all that stuff it just really tears down a team and I haven’t seen that with this team. It’s a good group.”

“I think it’s been wonderful because you get done with high school and then you go play in the summer,” Slicer continued. “You have some chemistry. The fact that we don’t have a lot of older kids, who are playing AAU and other things, has dipped into numbers. Last year we didn’t have Legion so this year it’s a little different, but I just love having our kids and we’ve been able to do this for five years, just having Oxford Hills kids. I think our chemistry is better and it helps us for next spring. We might not be as deep as the northern teams, but I think it’s been wonderful.”

Bessey Motors enters the Maine American Legion baseball playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the South and is scheduled to play second-seeded Central Maine from the North at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Husson University in Bangor. 

Oxford Hills players fill the Bessey Motors squad, except for post-grad player Brady Downing, who attended Poland Regional High School. That kind of chemistry and familiarity helps Bessey Motors, especially in games where the team may have just nine or 10 players available for a game. 

“It’s huge, just because we can rely on each other,” post-grad player Cade Truman said. “We know if one of us goes down there’s always that next person, and we all know each other’s skills so we know we aren’t going to be the worst team if someone is gone. Guys step up and play baseball.”

“It helps a lot because we have chemistry with everyone, we all like each other and no one’s excluded,” Ethan Cutler added. “Being able to predict what everyone else is going to do. You’re always thinking of the next step and if you know and trust that this player at this position can do that it goes a lot smoother.”

Coach Shane Slicer talks to the Bessey Motors Legion team on Thursday about travel logistics for their tournament this weekend at Husson University. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Truman and Cutler will be with Bessey Motors, alongside a total of “13-14 players,” according to Slicer, for the weekend’s tournament games. For the second-seeded Turner Bandits in the South, who face off against third-seeded Quirk Motor City from the North, it’s the second-consecutive year with the same group of players and head coach Chuck Mollica is ready for revenge. 

“I think we all came together really well,” Mollica said. “We had that chemistry that started last year and we have almost the same team, our pitching staff, top four rotation guys, they all did a great job.”

The Bandits will face off against Quirk Motor City, the same team they lost to last year in the Maine Independent Baseball League championship game. This summer, the Bandits have focused on limiting mistakes and driving home runners on base instead of stranding them. 

“For example, we had the lead in both Bangor games on Saturday and on Monday,” Mollica said. “Monday it was 2-1 and we had two innings where we left the bases loaded and we lost 5-2. We stranded runners Monday night. You get three of those guys home, it’s a tie game. You can’t strand guys and expect to beat those teams.”

While Mollica has been preaching being mentally tough, he also said he’s proud of his team. 

“I think Matt Wallingford, Cole Brown, Fischer Cormier, Garrett Mollica, they all did a really good job pitching against some really tough teams,” Mollica said. “Fischer has been an addition who has just been magnificent. I think if I had one standout player who has not only helped our pitching rotation and in the dugout, a really nice addition to the team is Fischer Cormier. He’s an outstanding young man, knows what has to be done.”

For Bessey Motors, it’s been a combination of young and old players that have carried the team to an 8-8 record

“I didn’t get a chance to coach Cade Truman in his senior year (in 2020),” Slicer said. “He would’ve been a great ball player his senior year. It was not a surprise, but he’s been wonderful. He’s been fantastic, plays hard and he’s really impressed. Ethan Cutler has had a great summer, Ty LeBlond had a great summer, Brady Truman as a freshman has had a great summer. The younger kids have really done a nice job.”

Cade Truman is just happy to be back on the ball field with his friends, having shown up for every single game this summer. Truman played fall baseball with Thomas College this past school year. 

“It’s been a lot of fun, especially because I’ve played with these guys through everything so it’s a lot more fun to play with them than just some random guys at college,” Truman said. “I don’t have much going on. I work during the day but I didn’t play spring ball, so I just want to play. I don’t know how fall ball is going to go so this could be my last time playing. I want to play every game and make the most of it.”

Cutler and Truman both agreed that on the right day Bessey Motors could beat anyone. 

“I think we can win it,” Cutler said. “I think we can definitely win it and on a good day? No question. We beat Bangor and we had 10 guys and missing most of our key players, so if we have the right mentality then we are good. If we can come out with a full team we have more confidence, too.”

Pastime was seeded to be in the playoffs, but coach Chris Reed had a conversation with Maine’s Director of American Legion baseball David Gray and decided not to enter, according to Gray.

“They chose not to participate, simple as that,” Gray said. “It was numbers. He couldn’t guarantee he could have a full complement of players. I am very sad because he worked extremely hard to keep that group going and he had a very good team but we had a conversation and he was very candid and said, ‘I don’t think we would have enough guys.’”

Reed, however, countered that his roster was denied by the American Legion.

The official reason why we are not in the tournament is that Nationals denied our roster,” Reed said. “We had a roster in on time, as we should, then we had an injury and I asked for permission to add a player and the state commissioner gave me that permission. I put the player on my roster and submitted that roster and it was denied. When the commissioner went to check the rosters for the tournament, I didn’t have an accepted roster. We never had the opportunity to play in states, regardless of having enough kids or any other factor. The official reason is that our roster was denied.”

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