First Win for Retif Was a Doozy
After an 0-2 start at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium, Retif Oil slipped into the win column by defeating a stubborn, previously unbeaten Refuel (Archbishop Shaw) team, 3-2, Thursday evening (June 4) in an exciting extra-inning home opener for the Jesuit-based American Legion team at John Ryan Stadium.
For the second time in three games, the seventh inning turned into a bugaboo for Retif, the defending American Legion state champions. With Refuel looking at a 2-1 deficit in the top of the seventh, the West Bank team had a runner at third base with two outs. A sharply hit grounder to third base was fielded by Nick Ray, but the throw to first base for what would have been the final out pulled Dan Edmund way off the bag. The infield error allowed Refuel to tie the game at 2-2.
On the field after the game, Coach Joey Latino said the defense played well but for “a couple of hiccups,” one of which was Ray’s “unfortunate” error. “That’s a play that young man is going to make 99 times out of a hundred, and the ball got away from him just a little bit,” said Coach Latino. “Nick is going to come back strong because he’s an outstanding athlete. We expect him to do good things at third base.”
Retif could not respond in the bottom of the seventh so the game stretched to the eighth. Refuel did nothing in the top of the eighth. In the bottom of the inning, pinch-hitter Trent Forshag (who had the night off behind the plate) drew a leadoff walk. Courtesy runner Jonathan Vazquez was sent in for Forshag and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Harrison Daste.
After catcher Josh Schmidt hit a pop up fly to shallow center field for the second out, third baseman Hayden Fuentes stepped up to the plate for his first at-bat of the game. Fuentes, who was also sidelined after his strong performance on the pitcher’s mound the night before against Gauthier-Amedee, entered the lineup in place of Ray in the top of the eighth.
Fuentes had a 2-2 count going when he checked his swing on the next pitch. Refuel’s catcher appealed to the field umpire, who ruled that the batter did not come around. Against a full count, Fuentes fouled off two pitches, then blasted a line drive single up the middle. As Vazquez rounded third and headed home, fans cheering for both teams were on their feet because the play would be a close one. As Vazquez slid, Refuel’s catcher caught the throw from center field and attempted the tag. But Vazquez wasn’t even touched and he was safe by a long shot.
Game over, Retif wins its first Legion game.
In his post-game interview, Coach Latino said this was the third night in a row that his players were up against the other team’s ace pitcher.
“It’s been a challenge, but our guys have responded,” he said, acknowledging that his team had some tough breaks in the first two games that were losses. “We had to overcome a lot of adversity in this game and against a very good team. I’m proud of the guys. Our motto is just keep playing pitch to pitch, out to out, inning to inning. Whether something happens good or bad, I don’t want our demeanor to change.”
That demeanor was the subject of much discussion in Retif’s locker room at Carrollton and Banks. Latino told his players that he wanted to see “relaxed intensity,” adding, “I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but I wanted them to relax, realize they’re a talented ball club, but we needed to get a little more fire, a little more competitiveness.”
Retif used three pitchers, beginning with Davis Martin, who threw four innings, giving up three hits, one run, and striking out two batters.
“It was definitely a tough start and I knew it was going to be a battle,” said Martin, admitting to overcoming some jumpy nerves. “I didn’t have my best stuff. I battled through it and pitched a decent game for our team. It was definitely an important win to get off that losing streak. We got our confidence back. We can compete with anyone we play.”
Martin was relieved by Logan Hornung, who pitched two and two-thirds innings, allowing three hits. With two out in the top of the seventh,
Coach Latino summoned a fresh Mason Mayfield from the bullpen to end the game. Instead, Mayfield walked the first batter he faced and the next batter hit the grounder to Ray at third base. Mayfield ended up pitching the final one and one-third innings, walking four batters but not allowing a hit. Mayfield gets the win.
Coach Latino said Martin, a rising junior, was being a little too critical of himself. “Davis was really good tonight,” said Coach Latino. “He changed speeds, kept the ball down in the zone, limited them to one run in four innings of work. That’s what we expect of him. He’s a very talented young man but more importantly, he has a lot of poise. He doesn’t pitch like a sophomore. He did an excellent job of controlling their sticks.”
Retif had a total of five hits from five players, including doubles from Brandon Briuglio and Scott Crabtree, and singles from Ben Hess, Dan Edmund, and Hayden Fuentes.
Coach Latino agreed that Retif’s first win was sorely needed. “Obviously the summer is different than prep (season),” he explained. “In prep, you’re right out the gate, every game is counting toward power points. Summer you’re trying to get better, trying to improve as you get closer to tournament play, which for us starts at the end of June. It’s tough to open a summer 0 and three, and expect good things to happen. So we really needed this win against a good quality club and that’s what we got.”