Retif Oilers Are District Champions, with Legion’s State Tourney in Their Sights
Winning the District Title Gives Retif a Bye and a Berth
The Retif Oilers emerged as the champions of the American Legion’s District 1 tournament after treating their small but faithful smattering of fans to a thrilling come-from-behind 5-4 win over Brother Martin-based Peake BMW on Monday, June 29 at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium.
As District 1 champions, the Oilers earned a bye and a berth, just like passing go and collecting 200 bucks. Retif gets to skip the southeast regional tournament (July 5-9 at Kirsch-Rooney), and is automatically in the Legion’s state tourney, scheduled July 19-23 at Kirsch-Rooney. The eventual winner and runner-up in the regional event will join Retif and five other teams at the state tournament.
To win the district championship, the Oilers had to play just two games, and of course, they had to win each one. Both games were against against Peake, but that’s what happens when only three teams comprise the Legion’s District 1: Retif, Peake, and Holy Cross-based Ponstein’s. Legion baseball tournaments are nine-inning, double elimination games.
In the first game last Saturday (June 27), Retif shutout Peake 8-0 behind the stellar pitching of Mason Mayfield, who allowed only three hits in the eight innings he commanded the mound. The win set up Monday’s clincher, but just as the teams were about to start play, lightning in the area precipitated a 45-minute weather delay.
Summer, heat, rain, nine innings, lightning, double elimination, hot dogs — all the key ingredients that make Legion baseball so exasperatingly fun!
Retif and Peake were playing each other for the fourth time this summer. In the season opener back on June 2, Retif blew a 5-0 lead in the top of the seventh and Peake left their tread marks all over the Oilers, winning 10-5. But it was Peake’s only win thus far. Retif evened it up with a 5-3 win in the second meeting of the two teams on June 17. The teams’ third encounter was that 8-0 shutout on Saturday.
When the weather lifted and the all-clear signal given, the Oilers came out flat, looking like they were having an out of body experience. Peake pounced quickly and plated two runs in the first inning, added a third run in the fifth, and held a commanding 4-0 lead after six innings.
The Oilers committed an uncharacteristic four errors and were held hitless during the first six innings. Brandon Briuglio started for Retif and completed five innings before Hayden Fuentes relieved him. Davis Martin came out of the bullpen to pitch the final two outs. Fuentes wound up with the win and Davis earned himself a save.
The Oilers finally made it to first base and beyond in the seventh inning. Designated hitter Nick Ray belted a huge triple, followed by doubles from Briuglio and left fielder Scott Crabtree. Retif’s two runs in the seventh closed the gap, 4-2. In the eighth inning, the Oilers got some walks and some clutch hits. Stephen Sepcich was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Fuentes singled, followed by a sacrifice bunt by Mark Beebe, a sacrifice fly by Ray, a single off the bat of shortstop Alex Galy, and a second hit by Briuglio, this time a single that scored Galy from second base. Retif’s three runs in the eighth gave the Oilers the lead, 5-4, a score that held up for the win.
“What’s frustrating for me are the four errors, two gift-wrapped runs in the first inning and another one in the fifth,” said Coach Joey Latino. “We have to be better than that, especially against a good team like Peake.”
Galy, a reliable fixture at shortstop, was charged with three of Retif’s four errors, but Coach Latino wasn’t too hard on the recent Jesuit graduate. “Alex is very steady and that was very uncharacteristic of him, and not just the errors, but the types of errors,” said Coach Latino, adding that two of the grounders juggled by Galy were routine.
“Alex is going to beat himself up a little bit, although I will encourage him not to,” he continued. “If you tell me the game is on the line and the winning run is 90 feet away, and the ball has to be hit somewhere, I want it to be hit to Alex Galy every time. I’ll tell you that whether it’s the first game of the year or the last game of the year. I don’t care how many errors he makes because Alex is a player, a true gamer.”
Galy redeemed himself by singling in the eighth and scoring the winning run on Briuglio’s single.
Back in the middle of the fifth inning as the Oilers came off the field, Coach Latino seized the opportunity to address his players just outside the dugout. His pep talk was the equivalent of dunking their heads into buckets of ice water. What did he say that in short order resulted in Retif’s bats coming alive?
“It goes back to the ‘c’ word,” he explained. “I didn’t think we were being very competitive. We were just letting Peak’s pitcher dictate everything, but he’s that kind of pitcher… Afterwards, I thought the guys challenged themselves. I heard some chatter in the dugout and that was good. I planted the seed but they took it and ran.”
Retif takes its 15-5-1 American Legion record on the road this week. The Oilers were invited to participate in a Fourth of July weekend tournament in Columbia, TN. The team is expected to return either Monday or Tuesday. Earlier in the season, Columbia traveled to New Orleans and played Retif twice, winning both games. The road trip for the Oilers is a reciprocal arrangement.
Last season in the Mid-South regional tournament in Little Rock, Columbia was the team that eliminated Retif, 8-7. The Oilers fought to the last out and almost pulled off an upset that would have landed them in the championship game. As it turned out, Columbia won the tournament but was eliminated at the Legion’s World Series a few days later in Shelby, NC.
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