Bill Ballew 2015-11-16 03:50:36
Omaha has a much-deserved reputation for being a spectacular host for the College World Series. Yet as impressive as the Nebraska city’s efforts may be every June in welcoming the top eight teams at the NCAA Division I level, they are matched in many ways by the performance put forth every August by the town of Shelby, North Carolina, as host of the American Legion World Series. With a population of approximately 20,500 people, Shelby is located just north of the North Carolina-South Carolina state line and a little less than an hour’s drive southwest of downtown Charlotte. Notable natives of the town include country music singer Patty Loveless, Basketball Hall of Famer David Thompson and current New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry. Yet come every August, the center of attention is Keeter Stadium- Veterans Field, located on the grounds of Shelby High School, and teams representing the eight different regions of the United States in the American Legion World Series. Shelby hosted the ALWS for the first time in 2008, the same year the town also served as the site of the regionals, and has been the tournament’s permanent site since 2011. Over the past five years, the town has experienced a lift in the economy, including the building of some new hotels and the arrival of several new chain restaurants. The town has adopted the ALWS to the point where everyone in Cleveland County appears to be involved in making sure the event runs like a well-oiled machine. More than 700 volunteers create a welcoming atmosphere, and year-round efforts lead to some outstanding events, which began this year on Saturday, August 8, with the Third Annual Seventh Inning Stretch Festival in Uptown Shelby. The day-long event included picnic tables and various vendors along with a cornhole tournament, drumline showcase and free concerts, headlined by Kellie Pickler from American Idol and Dancing with the Stars and special guest Walker County. A National Commander’s Reception was held on Tuesday before the games began on Thursday, August 13. The quality of baseball played, meanwhile, is exceptional. ESPN3 streamed all of the games before ESPNU broadcast the two semi-final contests on Monday and the championship game on Tuesday to cap yet another spectacular effort both on and offthe field. Opening Day • Thursday, August 13 Bright blue skies and low humidity combined with a field featuring grass as green and flawless as a baize poker table created the perfect setting for some outstanding competition on the diamond. The lidlifter featured two-time defending ALWS champion Brooklawn, New Jersey, and Post 72, widely considered the tournament favorite due to the return of many of its key players. Medford, Oregon, representing Post 15, was unfazed and proceeded to put together a solid pitching performance with excellent defense, particularly from middle infielders Micah Brown and Robert Cowden, and timely hitting to pull out the 3-2 victory. Medford jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning before Brooklawn rallied to tie the game in the sixth. The boys from Oregon responded in the seventh when Micah Brown tripled and then scored on a single up the middle by Bryce Rogan. Lefthander Jordan Ragan, meanwhile, kept his formidable opponents off-balance while pitching into the ninth, allowing only six hits and a walk with eight strikeouts. He was relieved after giving up a leadoffsingle in the ninth to Brooklawn’s Ray Taylor by Cody Coggins. Catcher Austin Zavala nailed Taylor attempting to steal before Coggins coaxed a pair of pop-ups to seal the victory. “This team plays hard and we don’t let down,” Regan said. “And this atmosphere was great. We had people who didn’t even know us pulling for us.” The second game pitted Midland Berryhill Post 165 from Michigan against Cromwell, Connecticut. Midland reached the championship game of the ALWS in 2014 before suffering an 18-0 defeat at the hands of Brooklawn. Last year’s ending proved to be a distant memory for the Michigan team when it recorded a 12-1 victory in seven innings over the club from Connecticut, which was also making an encore appearance after earning a trip to Shelby in 2014. Derrek Clyde started the scoring for Midland in the second inning when two runs crossed the plate on a single to left field and a subsequent error. After adding another run in the third, Midland broke the game open by plating nine tallies during the fourth and fifth innings to jump out to a 12-0 advantage. Cole Brooks hit a two-run homer over the right field wall, which was part of a 4-for-4 showing that included three runs scored on the afternoon. Midland also received a stellar pitching performance by starter Caleb Sommerville, who allowed one run on six hits while striking out two batters. Cromwell loaded the bases on two occasions, only to have Sommerville work his way out of the jams. “Caleb battled for us; he’s our guy that always wants the ball,” said Midland manager Steve Cronkright. “The defense was there for him as well. Our middle was able to turn three double plays, which is always huge.” The third and final game on Thursday pitted the Western region champions, Waipahu, Hawaii, against Omaha Fifty- Two’s Patriots of Post 374 from Millard, Nebraska. Played in front of a packed house of more than 7,800 fans, the boys for the Aloha State pulled out a 5-4 decision that saw the lead change hands on several occasions. “That’s been our identity for the past four years,” Waihapu manager Orlando Gante told the Shelby Star. “We smallball you, and we run.” Employing numerous bunts, sacrifices and aggressiveness on the base paths, Waipahu trailed three different times during the game before taking its first lead by scoring two runs in the bottom of the eighth. Cameron Igarashi tied the game at 4-4 with a sacrifice fly before Rustin Ho plated the deciding tally by scoring from second on an infield single. The Hawaiians also did an excellent job of pitching and playing stellar defense to remain within striking distance throughout the contest. Second baseman Kody Cacal made a pair of diving stops in the first inning that limited the Nebraskans to one run despite loading the bases. Millard owned a 3-1 advantage after two innings, which forced Waihapu to go with Grant Doi on the mound. Doi wound up pitching seven innings and earned the victory while allowing one run on five hits with two strikeouts. Waihapu was led offensively by Igarashi, who went 2-for-2 at the plate. Omaha had three batters—Jared Renkin, Dylan Uher and Drew Gilin—register a pair of hits. Day Two • Friday, August 14 Abundant sunshine welcomed the teams and fans again on Friday for three more games of the ALWS. After having the day offon Thursday, Retif Oil of New Orleans, Louisiana, winners of the 2012 ALWS, looked a little flat at the plate but received outstanding pitching from Mason Mayfield and David Boh to pull out a 2-1 victory over Cromwell, Connecticut, in the opening game. Mayfield started for New Orleans and worked seven innings while allowing only one run and five hits. Boh took over in the eighth and retired all six batters he faced to record the save. Their efforts were supported by Hayden Fuentes’ RBI double in the fourth and a run-scoring single by Benjamin Hess in the seventh inning, which proved to be enough to outlast Cromwell. “It was big to get that kind of pitching out of our guys as we weren’t capitalizing offensively,” said New Orleans manager Joseph Latino, whose team stranded 12 runners on base. “Mason battled as he always does, and David came in and threw two really clean innings.” The loss proved to be the second in as many games for Cromwell, which received an excellent pitching performance from starter Tucker Lord. The righthander allowed two runs and scattered eight hits while striking out five batters in seven innings of work. He did a masterful job of working out of several jams yet received little offensive support and was hung with the loss. Strong pitching was also evident in Friday’s second game. Medford, Oregon, righthander Cody Coggins shut out Millard, Nebraska, for seven innings while limiting his opponent to one hit during that stretch. Coggins allowed three singles in the eighth before Aaron Hutchinson silenced the rally and then recorded the save in the ninth. Austin Zavala contributed two RBI singles and Micah Brown added a run-scoring double to give Medford the 3-2 decision and its second one-run victory in as many games. “Our pitching has been phenomenal all year for us,” Medford head coach Nate Mayben told the Shelby Star. “What’s pleased me is the way our defense has been. We’re finally playing to our potential.” Millard trailed 3-0 upon entering the eighth before Drew Gilin, Ryan Bier and Jared Renken recorded three straight singles to plate a run and chase Coggins from the mound. A balk put runners on second and third before Nate Mallot hit a single up the middle. Second baseman Tate Cowden knocked the ball down to limit the damage to one run and threw behind the runner at third, which led to a rundown and the third out of the frame. Nebraska starting pitcher Jonah Ulane allowed three unearned runs over seven innings while striking out three batters and walking three to suffer the hard-luck loss. On Friday night, Chapin-Newberry, South Carolina, became the final team to make its 2015 debut in the ALWS. A packed house of 7,880 fans at Keeter Stadium-Veterans Field, including a large gathering of supporters from the nearby Palmetto State, witnessed yet another close contest that was dominated by stellar pitching before the South Carolinians pulled out a 2-1 triumph over Midland, Michigan. Chapin-Newberry entered the game with a perfect 28-0 record on the season after going undefeated throughout the regular season as well as the Southeast Region playoffs. Lefthander Ryan Huggins kept the South Carolina team in the game by scattering nine hits while allowing only one run, which came on an RBI single by Cole Brooks in the third inning. The team’s hitters, meanwhile, had little luck against Michigan righthander Jordan Patty before they scratched a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth to pull out the 2-1 victory. “For us it starts and ends with Ryne Huggins tonight,” said Chapin-Newberry manager Daniel Gregory. “He gave us a chance for nine innings. We usually ask our starter to give us six but he had that look after the fifth, the sixth and after that. He was going to be out there regardless.” Left fielder Zach Ziesing tied the game with a one-out RBI double in the ninth. Michigan opted to load the bases following Ziesing’s hit to create a possible force out at home. The plan failed when Peyton Spangler drew a four-pitch walk to score Andrew Livingston from third with the game-winning run. Day Three • Saturday, August 15 Saturday’s opening game unfolded like five of the first six contests of the ALWS, resulting in a low-scoring one-run decision. For the third time in as many outings, Medford, Oregon, put together an impressive combination of pitching, defense and timely hitting to clinch the top spot in the Stars Division with a 2-1 win over Waipahu, Hawaii, that wasn’t decided until the final at-bat. Keke Rios got Waipahu on the board in the first inning when he drove in a run while recording his first of two hits on the afternoon. The Hawaiians also received a stellar pitching performance from starter Tanner Atiburcio, who worked the entire game and held Medford scoreless for the first six innings. The Oregonians finally reached Atiburcio in the seventh when Cole Carder came through with a two-out RBI single that scored Eric Carlson and tied the game at 1-1. In the ninth, Medford loaded the bases with one out when Jared Evans hit a ground ball to short. Waipahu tried to turn the double play, but Evans’ speed created a high throw to first, allowing him to reach safely and score Steen Fredrickson from third for the game-deciding run. Medford received impressive pitching from three pitchers. Colton Westfall started and worked 6 1/3 innings while giving up one unearned run and five hits and striking out nine batters. Aaron Hutchinson tossed one frame before Micah Brown notched the victory by retiring all five batters he faced in 1 2/3 innings of work. Brown also made an incredible diving catch at shortstop with the bases loaded in the sixth that allowed Medford to emerge from the inning unscathed. In the middle game on Saturday, New Orleans scored two runs in both the first and second innings and improved to 2-0 in the ALWS by handing previously unbeaten Chapin-Newberry its first loss of the season in a 5-2 decision. Brandon Briuglio allowed two earned runs over seven strong innings and worked his way out of a pair of basesloaded jams to earn the victory before giving way to Hayden Fuentes for the final two frames after a 58-minute weather delay. Chapin-Newberry scored in the first inning when Danton Hyman reached on a bunt and later crossed the plate to give his team an early 1-0 advantage. New Orleans responded with an RBI single by Benjamin Hess and a run-scoring double by Scott Crabtree to take a 2-1 lead. Hayden Fuentes started another rally in the second with a double before Harrison Daste and Hess followed with run-scoring hits to extend the New Orleans margin to 4-1. The team’s fifth run came in the fifth frame, which proved to be plenty in deciding the final outcome. New Orleans finished the game with 12 hits, including three by Nicholas Ray and two each from Daniel Edmond, Hess and Fuentes. Hyman had three hits for South Carolina but also suffered the loss after pitching the game’s first five innings for Chapin-Newberry. Offense also dominated the night game on Saturday when Brooklawn rallied from its disappointing openinggame loss to defeat Millard, Nebraska, 15-1, in a seven-inning mercy-rule decision in front of 7,835 fans. The two-time defending ALWS champions used an avalanche of hits and took advantage of several fielding errors to score four times in the first inning, four in the second, three in the third and two in the fourth. Brooklawn’s Sean Breen led the charge with three hits, including a three-run homer. Isaih Eastering added three hits and three RBIs, while Fran Kinsey, Ray Taylor and Alex Krug contributed two hits apiece. Brooklawn spread the pitching duties among four different hurlers, with starter Joe Bobiak getting the most work by twirling four frames and allowing one earned run and three hits. After suffering a pair of one-run losses in its first two games, Nebraska concluded the tournament with an 0-3 mark and overall record of 41-20 on the season. Day Four • Sunday, August 16 Over the past several years, there has been no better matchup in the ALWS than the battles between Brooklawn and Waipahu. That tradition continued in the first game on Sunday when more than 7,000 fans filled Keeter Stadium-Veterans Field to watch the two teams face offonce again. The game lived up to its billing, with Brooklawn pulling out a 3-2 decision in 11 innings. Brooklawn advanced to the semifinals with a 2-1 record when Fran Kinsey stroked an RBI single to score Alex Krug with the deciding tally in the 11th inning. Kinsey’s hit supported the superior pitching performance of lefthander Lucas Rollins, who worked the entire game to post the victory and eliminate Waipahu from the championship hunt with its second one-run loss in three outings. “Every time we play them, they should charge double admission,” Brooklawn manager Dennis Barth told the Shelby Star. “It’s always a battle with them and they played us great.” Hawaii took advantage of two Brooklawn errors in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead on Brandon Henderson’s single. While Waipahu was unable to build on its advantage, the team received stellar defense as well as strong pitching from lefthander Dylan Sugimoto, who was able work out of a few jams and strand 10 runners. Brooklawn finally dented the scoreboard in the eighth inning when Kinsey singled and then scored on Ray Taylor’s triple to right field. Taylor then evened the score at 2-2 when he crossed the plate on a wild pitch. Hawaii threatened in the 10th by loading the bases with one out before Brooklawn turned a double play. In the 11th, Brooklawn got runners on base with a hit batter and Alex Krug’s bunt single before Kinsey singled to drive in the game-winner. It marked Kinsey’s fourth hit of the game. The one-run decision tied the ALWS mark for the most one-run games in a series with eight. The record was originally set in Sumter, South Carolina, in 1981. The mark was broken shortly thereafter in yet another nail-biter that proved no less riveting for the ALWS-record crowd of 8,021 at Keeter Stadium/Veterans Field. On Saturday night, Chapin-Newberry dropped its first decision of the season and in the process lost its chance of becoming only the third undefeated American Legion baseball team in history. The situation did not look to be any better over the course of late Sunday afternoon when Cromwell, Connecticut, built a 6-0 lead in the final game of pool play in the Stripes Division. Yet magical seasons have a way of generating unbelievable performances. Chapin-Newberry rallied for six runs in the eighth inning, led by Kevis Burton’s three-run double to center field, and pulled out the 7-6 victory. The comeback was the largest in ALWS history since New Orleans rallied from an 8-2 deficit in the fourth inning to defeat Natick, Connecticut, 9-8, in 1983. Cromwell built its 6-0 lead by accumulating 10 hits, including an RBI single in the third inning and a fourth-inning RBI double by Austin White. Cory Baldwin also stroked a pair of hits for Cromwell, which looked to be on the verge of clinching its first win of the 2015 ALWS. Chapin-Newberry did not get on the scoreboard until the seventh, when Justin Hawkins led offthe frame with a home run to center field. In the eighth, with the South Carolinians trailing 6-1, the team reeled offfour single in its first five at-bats, with Delshun Young driving in a run. With the bases loaded, Hawkins walked to bring Chapin-Newberry to within three at 6-3. Kevis Burton then cleared the bases and tied the score with a double to center field before Landon Allison drove in what proved to be the deciding tally with an RBI single, plating Burton. Cromwell starter Cole Ogorzalek worked the entire contest and suffered the loss. His team, meanwhile, failed to win a game in the ALWS for the second straight year. The Connecticut club concluded its campaign with a 37-7 record. The final game of pool play produced the 10th one-run affair of the 2015 ALWS when lefthander Davis Martin tossed a complete-game six-hitter over Midland, Michigan, to lead New Orleans to a 2-1 victory and a spot in the semifinals on Monday night. New Orleans, which finished pool play with a perfect 3-0 mark, scored two runs in the fifth inning. A walk to Harrison Daste and a single by Nicholas Ray started the rally before Daste scored on Benjamin Hess’ single and a subsequent error in left field. Ray proceeded to plate the second run when Michigan committed another error. Midland received outstanding pitching from Alex Sova, who coaxed a couple of double plays in between keeping the New Orleans offense off-balance. The Michigan team pulled within a run in the sixth when Jordan Dopp’s two-out RBI single to left field scored Carson Eby from third base to make the score 2-1. That was as close as Midland would get, however, thereby ending the team’s time in Shelby with a 1-2 record and an overall mark of 47-8. Semifinals • Monday, August 17 Some things never end. In front of a worldwide audience on ESPNU, Chapin-Newberry continued its winning ways in the first of two semifinal matchups on Monday when the South Carolina club posted another come-from-behind victory in yet another one-run decision in the ALWS, this time registering a 4-3 triumph over Medford, Oregon. The winners of three straight one-run decisions during pool play, Medford owned a 3-1 lead after seven innings against Chapin-Newberry. Micah Brown gave the Oregon team an early 2-1 advantage when he hit a two-run homer in the third inning. Austin Zavala came through with a two-out RBI single in the seventh that gave Medford a two-run lead. Chapin-Newberry, who scored a single run in the third on Peyton Spangler’s RBI double, sliced Medford’s advantage to one in the top of the eighth on shortstop Justin Hawkins’ home run, which ignited the 2,000 fans that had made the 90-mile trip from South Carolina. The game, however, hung in the balance as the teams entered the ninth, with Medford clinging to a 3-2 lead. After the first Chapin-Newberry batter was retired, Landon Allison reached first on an infield hit before Duncan Crotwell and Blake Smith followed with singles to load the bases. Zach Ziesing proceeded to tie the contest at 3-3 with a sacrifice fly to right field. With two outs, Danton Hyman dropped down a bunt single down the third base line that scored Crotwell with what proved to be the game-winning run. “What a great read by Danton on that play,” said Chapin- Newberry manager Daniel Gregory. “That was all Danton’s call. He has the freedom to bunt in that situation, and that’s what he did there.” Patrick Yoder took the mound in the ninth for Chapin-Newberry and retired Medford in order to seal the victory. While the South Carolina team advanced to the championship game, the boys from Oregon saw their season end with a 44-14 record. The nightcap of the semifinals also produced a hard-fought contest that was not decided until the final frame. Hoping to become the first team ever to win the ALWS championship in three straight years, Brooklawn faced a New Orleans club that was looking to add another banner to the one it claimed in 2012. Brooklawn scored an unearned run in the first on Sean Breen’s RBI groundout to third before New Orleans tied the game at 1-1 in the third on Benjamin Hess’ RBI fielder’s choice that was also unearned. Lucas Rollins gave the New Jersey team a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth when he scored on a throwing error prior to the Louisiana champions knotting the contest at 2-2 on Scott Crabtree’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth. The game remained tied through regulation. In the top of the 10th, Brooklawn plated a run on a walk to Sean Breen, a single by Anthony Harrold and an errant throw on Rollins’ bunt, which scored Breen. With one out and runners on second and third, New Orleans pitcher Mason Mayfield recorded back-toback strikeouts to keep his team within striking distance. Brooklawn starting pitcher Dante Scafidi took the mound again in the bottom of the 10th in hopes of sealing the victory with a complete-game effort. Scafidi retired the first batter of the frame before Nicholas Ray singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch. A walk put runners on first and second before Dan Wilson took over the pitching duties from Scafidi. Benjamin Hess responded to the pitching change by singling to left field to load the bases for New Orleans. Catcher Trent Forshag then stepped to the plate and stroked a single to left field that scored Ray as well as pinch-runner Connor Maginnis to give New Orleans the 4-3 victory and end Brooklawn’s season with a 46-7 record. Finals • Tuesday, August 18 Tight games defined most of the contests in the 2015 ALWS, with Chapin-Newberry putting together three come-frombehind rallies to advance to the championship game. The finals, however, proved to be a different story, with the South Carolina team jumping out to a big advantage and winning the title with a 9-2 victory over New Orleans. Chapin-Newberry wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. In the first inning, Danton Hyman led offwith a single before Justin Hawkins hit his third home run of the tournament to give the South Carolinians a 2-0 advantage. New Orleans responded in the bottom of the opening frame when Brandon Hess’ RBI single cut his team’s deficit in half. New Orleans threatened to take the lead in the bottom of the fifth when the team loaded the bases with two outs. The potential rally caused Chapin-Newberry to replace starting pitcher Tristan Smaltz with reliever Ryne Huggins, who retired the side on the first batter he faced on a fielder’s choice ground out to silence the uprising. The momentum swung to Chapin-Newberry, who used the situation to score three runs in the top of the sixth to build its lead to 5-1. Kevis Burton and Landon Allison singled before Burton scored on another single by Brad Smith. After a walk loaded the bases, Zach Ziesing coaxed another base on balls to plate Allison. Thomas Spangler was then hit by a pitch to score Smith with his team’s fifth run of the contest. The resilient New Orleans team responded by notching a run in the bottom of the sixth when Alexander Galy walked, advanced to second on a balk and scored on a single by Jake Licciardi. Following a scoreless seventh, Chapin-Newberry continued its offensive onslaught by adding four runs in the top of the eighth. Duncan Crotwell opened the frame with a triple and Ziesing walked before Crotwell scored on a fielder’s choice by Danton Hyman. Thomas Spangler followed with an RBI single to score Ziesing, and Burton added a two-run single to bring Hyman and Spangler around to give the South Carolinians a 9-2 lead. Ryne Huggins, who halted New Orleans’ potential rally in the fifth, earned the victory by allowing two hits and one earned run while striking out five batters over 4 1/3 innings of relief work. He fanned the first two batters in the bottom of the ninth to halt any thoughts of a potential comeback. As a result, Chapin-Newberry joined Spartanburg as the only two South Carolinabased teams to win the American Legion World Series. Spartanburg won the 1936 title by defeating Los Angeles. Chapin- Newberry concluded the season with a 32-1 record after becoming the first team to enter the ALWS with an unbeaten record since Memphis in 1963. The only teams to finish the season with perfect records are Yonkers, New York, who went 39-0 in 1926, and Oakland, California, which posted a 19-0 mark in 1928. Individual Awards: Justin Hawkins, Chapin-Newberry— Big Stick Award for most total bases; RBI Award with 12 runs batted in during regional and ALWS play; American Legion Player of the Year. Benjamin Hess, New Orleans—Slugger Award for posting a .488 batting average during the postseason; Sportsmanship Award. Jordan Rogan, Medford—Bob Feller Award for most strikeouts (23) in the tournament. Daniel Gregory, Chapin-Newberry—Leadership Award to the team’s manager and his staff. All-Tournament Team: Infielders: Anthony Harrold, Brooklawn; Peyton Spangler, Chapin-Newberry; Justin Hawkins, Chapin-Newberry; Hayden Fuentes, New Orleans; Outfielders: Cole Brooks, Midland; Danton Hyman, Chapin-Newberry; Dylan Sugimoto, Waipahu; Pitchers: Cody Coggins, Medford; Lucas Rollins, Brooklawn; Ryne Huggins, Chapin- Newberry; Catcher: Keke Rios, Waipahu; Designated Hitter: Benjamin Hess, New Orleans; Utility Player: Micah Brown, Medford.
Published by Baseball Magazine. View All Articles.