Five Games, Four Days, Three Cities, Second Place
Retif Oil swept through pool play and won its semifinal match-up in a walk-off but then ran out of gas–and fresh arms–in the championship game of the 16-team BBCOR Bat Summer Slam Tournament on Sunday afternoon at M.L. Tigue Field on the campus of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.
It was a whirlwind four days for Retif, which opened pool play on Thursday night against Bears White at St. Thomas Aquinas in Hammond. The Jays returned to Hammond for Friday night’s game against the New Orleans Spice, before moving to University High in Baton Rouge for a Saturday afternoon match-up with the Louisiana Outlaws.
If those last two names don’t sound like familiar American Legion foes, well, it’s because they aren’t. Increasingly, independent coaches are putting together teams of rising college sophomores and recent high school graduates from multiple schools to compete head to head with traditional American Legion teams. In essence, the Jays were in pool play against roving bands of baseball mercenaries, albeit unpaid mercenaries.
Retif cruised in their opener against Bears White, a Catholic High (Baton Rouge) team comprised primarily of junior varsity players. Todd Crabtree pitched a five-inning no-hitter in a contest cut short by the ten-run rule, with Retif leading 16-2. It was Crabtree’s tenth straight inning without allowing a hit and his second straight no-hitter, albeit his first without help. Back on June 13, Crabtree relieved an injured Logan Hornung and pitched five scoreless innings in relief in an 8-0 win over the Gulf Coast 29ers (Abbeville). Leading the offensive onslaught for Retif was Harrison Daste, with three RBIs. Alex Galy, Jake Licciardi, Daniel Edmund, and Trent Forshag added two RBIs apiece for good measure.
Then, it was on to the big boys. Suffice it to say, Retif was anything but intimidated. Against the Spice, it was Mason Mayfield’s turn to dominate on the mound. The senior pitched a seven-inning shutout, bolstered by support from back-to-back first inning home runs by Brandon Briuglio and Edmund.
The Outlaws gave Retif its toughest test of pool play, jumping out to a 4-3 lead after three innings. But Retif got its bats cranking in a five-run sixth inning. Galy started the scoring with a sacrifice fly. Then it was the suddenly Sultan-of-Swat-like Briuglio’s turn to get in on the action. Perhaps empowered by the allowance for aluminum bats in this tournament, Briuglio connected on a three-run dinger, his second home run in two days (and the first two of his high school career). The Jays went on to win 9-5, with Hayden Fuentes picking up the win in relief.
On Sunday, Retif faced pool winner Gauthier & Amedee (comprised of players from East Ascension, Dutchtown, Parkview, and St. Amant) in a 10:00 a.m. semifinal. Starting pitcher Davis Martin pitched out of jam after jam through the first five innings, somehow limiting the damage from nine hits, including lead-off base runners in every inning, to only two runs.
Meanwhile, G&A starter Adam Tarver, a Nicholls State signee, was mowing down Blue Jay batters, allowing only one hit and no runs through the first five frames.
Things began to change in the sixth, however. After reliever David Boh retired the G&A side, The Jays broke through for one run when Forshag singled in Galy, who led off the inning with a double. The short-lived elation of the initial breakthrough turned into disappointment as the Jays weren’t able to punch across the tying run despite having runners on first and third with only one out.
Boh emerged from the seventh inning unscathed, giving Retif one last chance to prolong its visit to Cajun country. And they took advantage of the opportunity. Stephen Sepcich opened the inning with double down the third base line. The next batter up, Josh Schmidt, tied the game with a double of his own to left center. An errant throw on a pick-off attempt allowed pinch runner Connor Maginnis to advance to third. Maginnis then scored the walk-off run when Daste lined a ground ball off the third baseman’s glove, earning the win for Boh and setting off a small celebration in the Blue Jay dugout.
Retif’s players didn’t have long to enjoy the moment, or rehydrate for that matter. The finals started a mere 30 minutes later. The opponent: a relatively well rested Team Louisiana, which had a few hours to rejuvenate themselves after an 8:00 a.m. semifinal.
That extra rest on an oppressively hot day may well have made the difference. Retif played uncharacteristically sloppy ball, staking their opponents to a 4-0 lead in the first inning from which they never looked back en route to a 10-2 victory. Indeed, the Jays’ final hitter in the bottom of the seventh, Briuglio, was cramping in the batter’s box, suggesting that Retif had both literally and figuratively run out of gas.
Of special note in Sunday’s action was a perfect day at the plate for Galy. The recently graduated shortstop racked up three hits, three walks and a sacrifice fly in seven at-bats over two games.
The loss snaps an 11-game winning streak for Retif, leaving them with a 12-5 record heading into next week’s action. First up is a Monday afternoon road trip to Hahnville for a 5:00 p.m. contest with Otto Candies. After that, it’s a trek across Lake Pontchartrain for a Tuesday evening contest at 6:30 against Mandeville-based LLOG Exploration. Then, on Wednesday, the Jays take to the field for a 7:00 start at Kirsch Rooney against Holy-Cross-based Ponstein’s.