OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine — Needing a victory to avoid being eliminated from the Northeast Regional Tournament, the Concord Post 21 American Legion baseball team turned to Eddie Dionne on Friday.
Dionne, the ace of the Concord High School team that won the Class L championship in the spring, responded by pitching 8 1/3 innings of shutout ball to help Concord post a 4-0 victory over Saco, Maine, in the double-elimination tournament.
Dionne walked six, but he held Saco to three hits. Pembroke Academy's Aubrey Gates was on the mound for the final two outs, which were recorded on a double play.
“He (Dionne) pitched like a big-game pitcher,” Saco coach Ray Petit said. “When he got ahead in the count, he was tough. He nibbled and hit spots. He struck some guys out on pitches that were tough to hit.”
Dionne, who struck out four, pitched in each of Concord's four tournament games during the spring. He was the winning pitcher in three of those four games, and picked up a no-decision in the championship game against Merrimack. He threw 120 pitches Friday.
“I don't like to think about the pressure,” Dionne said. “I just try to focus on the mitt, throw strikes and give my team a chance to win.”
Concord, which lost to Barnstable, Mass., on Thursday, did most of its scoring in the third inning, when it picked up three runs. Ben Bengston opened the scoring when he singled, stole second and raced home on Dionne's single to center. Patrick Cannon made it 2-0 when he scored on a double steal, and Dionne increased the lead to 3-0 when he scored on Dillon Emerson's double.
Concord collected its final run in the eighth. David Drouin got caught in a rundown between first and second, which allowed Kenny Hart to score from third.
Concord had six hits in the victory. No one had more than one hit.
“We still gotta get the bats going more,” Concord coach Bryan Caruso said. “The way we hit during the regular season … we haven't had that for a couple weeks now. At this point you have to hope everybody gets hot at the same time.”
The loss eliminated Saco, which opened the tournament with a 5-2 loss to Milford, Conn.
Caruso said Dionne pitched despite being bothered by a bad back.
“I've coached Eddie since he was 12 years old and this is what he does,” Caruso said. “He's a bulldog. He's hurt a little bit, but he went out there and battled. He didn't want to come out, even in the ninth.”
Concord will play the loser of Friday's winners' bracket game between Portland, Maine, and Saratoga, N.Y., today at 9:30 a.m. Caruso said either Gates or Sam Bonifant will start on the mound today.
The tournament field will be reduced to four teams after today's games.
“We did what we had to do,” Caruso said. “It's one game at a time now.”
GAME NOTES: The Post 21 roster includes players from five high schools: Concord, Hopkinton, Merrimack Valley, Pembroke Academy and Bishop Brady. … New Hampshire is one of three states that, by rule, must use wooden bats during the regular season. Aluminum bats are allowed in the Northeast Regional. … Concord committed one error Friday, after committing five in Thursday's loss to Barnstable.
Saco 000 000 000 0-3-1
Concord 000 000 000 4-6-1
Concord: Eddie Dionne (WP), Aubrey Gates (9) and Braden Smith. Saco: Jack Kenney (LP), Steven Harmon (7) and Josh Coffin.