Retif Oilers, Green and Unbeaten, Make the Final Four at the American Legion World Series
It’s Louisiana vs. New Jersey in a Semifinal Game on Monday with the Winner Advancing to the Championship Game
The Retif Oilers needed only two runs on Sunday to eliminate the Great Lakes champion from Midland, MI, and to remain undefeated, the undisputed winner with a perfect 3-0 record of the “Stripes Pool” at the American Legion World Series in Shelby, NC.
Louisiana’s 2-1 victory over Michigan sets the stage for a semifinal game Monday night at Keeter Stadium featuring Retif — the Mid-South region champs, in Legion parlance — and New Jersey, the Mid-Atlantic region champs and the runner-up of the “Stars Pool.” The Brooklawn, NJ squad is the current defending World Series champion.
The first semifinal game pits Medford, OR, the Northwest region champions against Chapin-Newberry, SC, the Southeast region champions. Medford was the winner of the “Stars Pool” and the only other team with a 3-0 record, while Chapin-Newberry was the runner-up in the “Stripes Pool.” First pitch is 4 p.m. (3 p.m. New Orleans time).
Retif tangles with Brooklawn, NJ in the other semifinal game, which is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. (6:30 New Orleans time). The semifinal games and the championship game will air live on ESPNU.
The American Legion celebrated “Military Appreciation Day” on Sunday and distributed television-friendly jerseys for the players on the eight teams to wear. The Oilers were issued blinding fluorescent lime-green camouflage jerseys to wear, the first time in the history of Jesuit athletics that a team of Blue Jays wore a color that was not blue, white, or grey. That some of the Oilers wore jerseys with different numbers than their regular Retif uniforms caused some confusion among fans and media. An unscientific sampling of Retif supporters yielded such comments as “Ugh,” “Ugly,” “Strange,” and a favorite: “Slimed with Lime.” In the end, the color of the Oilers’ shirts didn’t necessarily make them play better or worse.
In Sunday night’s game against Midland, MI, the Oilers (34-6-1) scraped together a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth inning while Davis Martin hung in on the mound to pitch a complete nine-inning game. Martin gave up a single run in the sixth inning and limited Midland to six hits, while walking four batters and striking out two.
“Pleased is an understatement” was Coach Joey Latino’s reply when asked by a reporter if he was pleased with Martin’s performance. “That young man grew up a great deal tonight. He just finished his sophomore year but he didn’t look like one tonight. He battled a very good hitting team, pitched out of some trouble with the help of a stellar defense behind him. He got stronger as the game progressed, felt confident with the pitches he was throwing. I can’t say enough about him, just a tremendous effort.”
With Martin’s pitch count approaching 100, Coach Latino said he and assistant coach Kenny Goodlett were keeping close tabs on the number. “We were keeping careful track of the count,” he said. “Davis was at 91 going into that last inning and he said he still felt strong. I look for the legs, I look for the ball elevating, and it did not seem to be doing that. He was primarily throwing off-speed pitches, so there wasn’t a lot of strain on his arm. He spotted his fast ball when we needed him to but he was basically relying on curve ball and change-up tonight, and that kept batters off balance.”
Retif’s offense produced only five hits, one fewer than Midland, and the Oilers again reached double digits for the number of runners they left stranded: 10. Retif benefitted from a pair of Midland errors in the fifth inning, the frame in which the Oilers pushed two runs across.
Midland’s pitcher beaned three Oilers: Nick Ray, Hayden Fuentes, and Trent Forshag, who was nailed twice. Shortstop Nick Ray, left fielder Scott Crabtree, and designated hitter Alex Galy each hit a single.
Once again, and to no one’s surprise because by now Retif’s fans pretty much expect that when right fielder Ben Hess steps into the batter’s box, he will deliver something and land on base somewhere, somehow, whether he hits the ball, the ball hits him, or he draws a walk. In his four at-bats on Sunday, Hess struck out his first time up, grounded out to the shortstop in the fourth inning, then closed by hitting singles, one for an RBI, in the fifth and seventh innings.
The decisive fifth inning for the Oilers turned out to be one for the deuces: 2 runs on 2 hits, 2 errors, and 2 left on base. The inning started with a walk by Harrison Daste. Nick Ray singled down the left field line. After Brandon Briuglio struck out swinging, Hess singles to left field, advancing Ray to second and Daste to third base. But Midland’s left fielder had trouble getting the ball out of his glove and he dropped it, long enough for Daste to dive head first into home plate and score Retif’s first run. A passed ball advanced Hess to second and Ray to third base. Catcher Trent Forshag ripped a sharp grounder to Midland’s third baseman, who couldn’t make the throw to first in time. The second error of the inning resulted in Ray scoring Retif’s second, and last, run standing up. However, Hess and Forshag were left stranded when Crabtree struck out and Edmund hit a hard line drive to second base.
“It’s incredible what that kid has done between the Mid-South regionals and here,” Coach Latino said about Hess. “Every time it seems like we need a big hit, Ben is coming through for us and I couldn’t be happier for him. That’s a kid who works extremely hard, has dedicated a lot of time to his hitting craft, and it’s paying off.”
Retif won the American Legion World Series in 2012 when it shut out Brooklawn, 4-0, in the championship game. Emerson Gibbs ’12, who today pitches for Tulane University, tossed a three hitter back then and was named MVP for his performance. Brooklawn, whose 18 players represent five different high schools (11 hail from Gloucester Catholic), has won the World Series four times: 1991, 2001, 2013, and 2014, which makes the New Jersey boys the current defending champions.
“At this point, it’s more about what you’re playing for than who you’re playing against,” observed Coach Latino, admitting that it sounds cliché-ish. “We’re one of four teams left and that’s just amazing. When we started back in early June, we were struggling. We were 1-4 out the gates and looking around shaking our heads, like what’s going on. Here we are 12 weeks later on the biggest stage the American Legion has to offer with a chance to play for a national championship.”
The New Orleans Advocate: Davis Martin’s complete game lifts Retif Oil into American Legion semifinals
ShelbyStar.com: We salute you
American Legion World Series: Statistics Summary, Teams Stats, Individual Stats