ST. GEORGE – A strong starter and a duo of left-handed relief pitchers helped the Dixie Pilots American Legion team win its first-ever home game Friday night against Vernal. The team from Uintah County won the nightcap, making it a split of the home series at Flyer Field.
Ajay Leavitt, Boston Miller and Cooper Vest combined in the first game, which went to eight innings before the Pilots pulled out a 6-5 win. Chase Lundin had the game-winning single, chasing home Reggie Graff for the extra-inning victory.
Dixie improved to 4-2 and was within a half-game of Vernal with the win, but the late game, a 12-4 Vernal victory, put the Vernal team back ahead by 1 1/2 games. Vernal finishes its two-day southern Utah swing with a game at the St. George Sentinels Saturday morning at 10 a.m. at Pine View High School.
Leavitt got the start for Dixie and pitched well. He left after four innings with a 2-1 lead. Miller pitched a scoreless fifth, but gave up two runs each in the six and seventh as Vernal overcame an early 2-0 deficit to forge a 5-3 lead.
It looked like the game was over as Wyatt Woodland hit a routine fly ball to left field with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. But the Vernal left fielder mishandled the ball and Woodland ended up at second base. Vest, who had singled earlier in the inning, scored on the play to make it 5-4.
The next batter, Josh Cazier, singled to right field to score pinch runner Chandler Welch and tie the game and force extra innings.
Vest, the 3A state championship hero, came on to pitch for Dixie in the top of the eighth and things got a little dicey after the Pilots committed two errors. But with two outs and runners on second and third, Vest struck out Vernal’s Kyler Murray with a high fastball to retire the side.
In the bottom of the eighth, Reggie Graff drew a one-out walk. With Lundin at the plate, Graff took off on an attempt to steal second. He slid in safely as the ball skimmed away from the Vernal shortstop. As Graff attempted to head to third, his progress was impeded by the shortstop and the umpire awarded Graff third base.
Two pitches later, Lundin scorched one down the third base line that would have scored Graff from either second or third to end the game.
Lundin had two of the five RBIs in the game for Dixie. Anderson had three hits and Tyson Miller had the only extra-base hit of the game for the Pilots, an RBI double in the bottom of the third. Payden Harrah had two hits for Dixie.
Dixie is now 4-3 in American Legion Southern Region play, with Vernal moving its record to 5-1 in league play. The Pilots were originally scheduled to play Roosevelt Saturday morning, but the game has been postponed.
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