BANGOR, Maine — Australia’s debut at the Senior League World Series didn’t go quite as planned.

After enjoying an opening-day bye, the Southern Mariners from Melbourne held a 7-2 lead over the Cedar Ridge all-stars from Chicago, Illinois, through 3½ innings Monday, only to watch the U.S. Central champions score 11 runs in their final three at-bats for a 13-8 victory that immediately sent the Asia-Pacific contingent into must-win mode under the tournament’s modified double-elimination format.

“I think we had them toast, to be honest, and then we gave it to them by pitching really badly,” recalled Australia coach Rick Wills. “They’re a good team. They’ve proven that, they’ve been undefeated. But we were up [7-2] at one stage, and I think we purely let ourselves down by not pitching well.”

That must-win mode has produced dramatic results for the Aussies, with three straight wins in as many days.

First as they edged San Antonio, Texas, 2-1 when center fielder Aiden Willis threw the potential tying run out at the plate to end the game. Then they rallied from early deficits of 4-0 and 6-1 to outscore Carolina, Puerto Rico, 13-7.

That led to Thursday night’s Senior League World Series semifinal, when Jordan Barnett gave his team hope with two innings of scoreless relief pitching and Australia rallied with five runs in the bottom of the seventh for a stunning 7-6 victory that quashed the championship dreams of the host team, Maine District 3 titleholder Bronco-Hermon.

“Just an incredible effort by the boys to stay positive and not to drop the heads when they’re down in potentially the last game of the World Series for us,” said Wills.

Now there’s just one game left for the Mariners, a rematch with Cedar Ridge for the 15- and 16-year-old Little League world championship. Game time is 2 p.m. Saturday at Mansfield Stadium.

Cedar Ridge is the lone remaining undefeated entry in the 10-team Senior League World Series field, 4-0 after its 7-0 semifinal victory over Dumfries, Virginia. In addition to their earlier win over Australia, the U.S. Central champs outscored Virginia, Puerto Rico and Spain by a combined 24-3 to earn their championship berth.

“This is what we started out for, but you never know if you’re going to get here,” said Cedar Ridge manager Mark Robinson.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...