Retif Oilers Ready to Defend Their American Legion State Title
The Retif Oilers have their sticks sharpened and their pitching up to snuff as they prepare to defend their 2014 state championship at this summer’s American Legion State Tournament, which begins this weekend at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium.
Retif drew a bye and will not play on Saturday. The Oilers play their first game on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. against either the River Ridge Patriots (John Curtis) or the Delhomme Drillers, an Acadiana-based team. The bye was necessitated when a team from Lafayette dropped out because of a lack of players. The coaches of the four teams that won district titles got together with American Legion officials and had a blind draw to determine which team would draw the bye.
“It’s the first time I’ve won something,” cracked Retif Coach Joey Latino whose Oilers bring a 22-6-1 record to the Legion’s big tourney.
Since winning the City Series (District) in late June gave Retif an exemption from playing in the Regional Tournament, the Oilers have kept their heads in the game by adhering to a hopscotch schedule. They’ve played a Fourth of July tournament in Tennessee, beating teams from Alabama, Vermont, and Canada. Since July 9, the Oilers will have played five games against three different traveling baseball teams, including that fifth game, against NOCA Baseball (New Orleans Coaches Association), Thursday evening at John Ryan Stadium. First pitch is 7 p.m.
A Grand Slam for Retif’s Nick Ray
The Oilers beat NOCA Wednesday evening at John Ryan Stadium, 14-1, and the sparse crowd that attended was treated to a grand slam by Oilers’ third baseman/outfielder/designated hitter Nick Ray. It was the first grand slam hit since the stadium opened in March 2012. Ray, who bats right and throws right, cleared the 320-foot left field fence at the Ryan by at least five feet. Ray had two home runs prior to smashing his first grand slam. Congratulations, Nick!
On Saturday, the Oilers defeated All-American, 3-2. Last week, Retif beat the N.O. Pelicans, 7-0, but dropped one to All-American, 3-1, the Oilers’ first loss since losing the championship game in the Summer Slam event.
In addition to the Patriots and the Drillers, Retif will be joined at the Legion’s state tournament by Gautheir & Amedee, Townsend Homes, Refuel (Arhbishop Shaw), and Peake BMW (Brother Martin).
Coach Latino says the competition makes a very strong field. “Refuel has a strong group of kids and Gauthier & Amedee has a roster that is sprinkled with college and junior college returnees,” hhe said. “Curtis is always very talented and Peake is good. There’s not a weak team in the field. So our chances are as good as anybody’s, but we’re going to have to play our very best baseball over the span of the next several days.”
Coach Latino added that the Oilers’ formula has been “pitch it well first,” and he wants to continue to emphasize to his pitching staff the importance of throwing their best stuff.
As for who will start Sunday evening, Coach Latino said it depends on who the Oilers will be facing. But he added that it will probably be Brandon Briuglio, Davis Martin, or Mason Mayfield. The starting second baseman for the Oilers when he’s not pitching, Briuglio is a right-hander whose record is 1-1; his ERA is 2.40. Martin is a southpaw who is 2-0 with an ERA 2.55. Mayfield, a right-hander, is 6-1 with an ERA of 0.71.
“If our pitching is solid and we continue to play good defense, we’ll be in every game,” he said. “Offensively, we haven’t always been our best this summer. But when we’re good, we’ve really been good.”
The Oilers have six players batting .300 or better, including outfielder/DH Stephen Sepcich (.300), Briuglio (.312), first baseman Dan Edmund (.323), third baseman Hayden Fuentes (.327), catcher Trent Forshag (.329), and center fielder Harrison Daste (.350).
“Harrison is on one of those streaks,” said Coach Latino. “He’s the team’s best bunter. He bunts for a hit and he’s very good at it. He’s also a good sacrifice bunter. His hits are not the most impressive looking coming off the bat, but they’re finding green space.”