Assistant Sports Editor
BENNINGTON -- Bennington Post 13 had the hits and the chances.
It did not have the timing.
Essex Post 91 got in front early, building a five-run edge through five frames before fending off Bennington, 5-2, in the second round of the American Legion baseball state tournament at Castleton State College on Friday.
Post 13 (20-5) stranded a dozen runners in the loss, which sends them to the beaten side of the double-elimination bracket to face Lakes Region at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
The next loss for either is the season-ender. It will be their fourth meeting this year, with Lakes Region holding a 2-1 advantage.
"We took way too many pitches, got ourselves in a hole way too quickly," Post 13 coach Walt Parmenter said. "You can’t put yourself in a hole, 0-1, 0-2 and then swing at a bad pitch and you strikeout.
"We did that way too much today and we left way too many men on base today. Way too many."
Essex and Bennington, which also lost in the second round last year before winning its way back to the finals, finished with nine hits apiece Friday.
Southpaw Steve Jurkiewicz went seven-plus innings for Essex to earn the win. He scattered nine hits across eight frames, yielding the two runs and striking out five.
Kevin Guild threw two innings of scoreless relief for the save.
"Stevie threw a great game, not having his best stuff. To get seven, eight innings out of him the way he was throwing was good for us," said Essex coach Todd Herrington, an Arlington native and former Post 13 player in the early 1990s.
Bennington starter Russell Krebs went the distance in the loss. He fought through a rocky fifth inning to hold Post 91 to just one hit over the final four frames.
"Essex hits the ball. They hit the ball and put it in play," Parmenter said. "Russell didn’t do that bad today Š we just didn’t support him."
Post 91 tallied once in the first, once in the fourth and three times in the fifth.
"We’re facing good pitchers and hitting the ball well, which is huge," Herrington said.
In the decisive frame, Essex loaded the bases with no outs. Bennington leftfielder Wade Green killed the rally with a throw to the plate for the third out -- the fourth time Post 13 picked off a runner at home.
"That was key. Those were big plays," Parmenter said. "It kept us right there."
Ted Andrews powered Essex with a 3-for-4 day. Nick Salerno went 2-for-4 with a walk.
Bennington didn’t get on the board until the eighth when Cody LaFlamme (2-for-5) -- after doubling to the wall in center -- scored on a Nick Solari infield grounder.
Matt Parmenter, who doubled, singled and reached on an error to go 2-for-4, plated in the ninth for the final margin. Zach Bahan also went 2-for-5 for Bennington.
"We’ve just got to work on better pitch selection at the plate," Parmenter said. "We had umpteen chances to score."
Post 91 faces the Colchester Cannons at 4 p.m. Saturday in a battle of unbeatens.
South Burlington, which lost to Bennington Thursday, knocked out Rutland Post 31 with an 8-4 victory on Friday. The Nationals face Addison County at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Brattleboro Post 5 was also bounced after its 7-5 loss to Lakes Region.