The Silver Lining in Retif Oil’s 0-2 Start
The American Legion season is still young but Retif Oil’s 0-2 start may be causing some head-scratching, heartburn, and perhaps even anxiety among the loyal and faithful fans who follow Blue Jay baseball.
Jesuit-based Retif Oil, the defending American Legion state champions, posted a 25-13 won-loss record by the time the 2014 season ended last August at the Mid-South Regional Tournament in Little Rock.
In other words, don’t panic… yet. There’s still plenty of baseball to be played, beginning Thursday evening (June 4) when Retif hosts Refuel (Archbishop Shaw) at John Ryan Stadium. First pitch is 7 p.m. Admission is $5 for students and adults; $3 for children 6-11.
On Friday (June 5), Retif welcomes the Legion team from Columbia, Tennessee for a two-game stance. Friday evening’s game begins at 6 p.m. and the two teams will play a second game Saturday (June 6) at 10 a.m. Columbia was the team that handed Retif its second loss in Little Rock last August. But the boys in blue and white put up a fierce fight before Columbia pulled off an 8-7 win.
Which brings us back to the present and those two back-to-back losses at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium. In the one-day delayed opener against Peake BMW (Brother Martin) on Tuesday of this week, the Jays blew a 5-1 lead going into the last inning. Peake had the top of the inning and in the seventh, their players started hitting pretty much anything near the strike zone. Peake scored nine runs in the seventh and won 10-5, as Retif couldn’t muster a similar-type rally in the bottom of the inning.
The following night, Wednesday (June 3), Gauthier & Amedee — whose players are from schools in Dutchtown, East Ascension, and St. Amant — allowed one hit in a shutout of Retif, 4-0. The G&A pitcher had a no-hitter going through the fifth inning before designated hitter Jake Licciardi singled up the middle. Two walks loaded the bases with no outs and Retif came away empty.
“We’re going down too easy, we’re not working deep in the counts,” said Coach Joey Latino, adding that his players need to be more competitive, “a little more gritty.”
Coach Latino said Retif players were more focused and determined in their 10-5 loss to Peake than what was displayed in their 4-0 shutout by G&A. Losing two games isn’t the end of the world.
“You hate to say this because every game is important, but this isn’t like prep (season),” Coach Latino explained. “The Legion summer really begins when tournament play starts. Right now, wins and losses don’t mean a heck of a lot. Obviously you want to win games because you want the guys to feel good about themselves and you want them to get a little bit on a roll.”
Coach Latino’s biggest concern is the level of competitiveness of his players, along with “just being a little tougher mentally.” Those two things have to be in alignment, he said, noting that his players, talent-wise, are obviously a good group of kids.
The silver lining for the Retif fans at the G&A game was rising Jesuit senior third baseman Hayden Fuentes, who is beginning to see more playing time. And rightfully so. Coach Latino plucked Fuentes from third base and put him on the mound in the third inning, the first time he pitched all year. In five innings, the kid allowed only two runs on three hits, and he struck out five.
Coach Latino sang Fuentes’s praises: “Hayden did an outstanding job. I’ve had limited time to work with him, but he’s a sponge. He gets everything you’re telling him and puts it into practice. He did what I asked him to do: pound the strike zone and let the defense work behind you. I thought he did a really nice job.”
Fuentes was the third pitcher Retif used against G&A. Jack Burk, who just graduated with the other seniors on the team, started for Retif, but after two innings, his arm started bothering him, according to Coach Latino. Burk struck out four and allowed only one hit, but two runs scored. Burk took the loss and was relieved by rising senior Connor Maginnis, who threw 12 balls and one strike in walking three batters in a row. That’s when Coach Latino turned to Fuentes.
“Hayden came in and competed very well, gave up a couple of hits, a couple of runs,” said Coach Latino. “I thought he competed his butt off and did a great job. He’s throwing it where we call it. He’s got a little bit of giddy-yup. He’s a strong-arm kid because he plays third base for us. I’m pleased with what I saw of him tonight. There wasn’t a whole lot else to talk about.”