American Legion: 1-run loss leaves Sentinels with tough road ahead

Sentinels' Trey Allred makes a tag at second base for an out, St. George Sentinels vs. Vernal, American Legion Baseball, St. George, UT, June 17, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

WEST VALLEY CITY – It was a dream scenario for the St. George Sentinels Wednesday afternoon, but that dream turned nightmarish when the potential tying run was left on base in the seventh inning of the first round of the Utah state American Legion baseball tournament.

The first-round game featured the South Region’s top seed, the Sentinels, against the No. 4 seed from the North, the North Cache Titans. The teams battled back and forth, but with one out in the bottom of the seventh and trailing 5-4, St. George had two of its best hitters up in Ryke Erickson and Payton Higgins and the tying run on base.

Erickson worked the count full, with the base runner, Dawson Staheli, at second base. But the former Pine View catcher struck out, leaving it all up to Higgins. The former Canyon View star, who redshirted last season at Cal State San Bernardino, had already been on base twice in the game and needed just a base hit to tie the game.

But he took a mighty cut at an 0-1 pitch and hit it straight in the air. The North Cache first baseman handled the foul pop and the Titans had pulled off the improbable upset, 5-4.

“I was excited,” Sentinels coach Shane Johanson said. “We had no outs and the tying run on base with the top of the order up. I was thinking we were in really good shape.”

Alec Flemetakis, file photo from St. George Sentinels vs. North Cache, American Legion Baseball, St. George, UT, June 24, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

North Cache led 4-0 after a big second inning. The Sentinels got their first run of the game in the third, with Trey Allred and Tobie Swenson hitting back-to-back singles. Jagun Leavitt then chased Allred home with a sacrifice fly to center to make it 4-1.

In the top of the fourth, the Titans pushed the lead to 5-1, but St. George scored two more to make a game of it. Higgins doubled, but was cut down trying to go to third on a fly out by Nick Horsley. With two outs, Alec Flemetakis singled and Weston Sampson reached on an error. Allred and Swenson went back-to-back again with base hits to bring home the two runs and make it 5-3.

The score was still 5-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh. Swenson led off with a double (his third hit of the game) and Staheli moved him to third with a single to left field that put two men on with no outs and the top of the order coming up.

Leavitt picked up his second RBI with a sacrifice fly to left to make it 5-4, the sac moving Staheli to second base. But Erickson and Higgins went down to end the game and send the Sentinels into the one-loss bracket.

In order to get to the championship game, St. George (20-11) will have to win two games Thursday, two games Friday and an early game Saturday. The Sentinels would then have to beat the unbeaten team in the title game and the “if necessary” game to be state champs.

The journey will begin with a 10:30 a.m. elimination game Thursday against Lone Peak at Pleasant Grove High School. If St. George wins that game, it would play again at 7:30 p.m. at Gates Field at Kearns High against another elimination escapee.

“Tomorrow will be the hardest day,” Johanson said. “Turning around and playing a morning game after losing is tough. If we can gut through that one, then we should face a very good team tomorrow night.”

American Legion State Tournament
Jul. 26-29 @ Gates Field

Wednesday (first round)
Game 1 – 10:30 a.m. – Helper 4, Lone Peak 0
Game 2 – 1:30 p.m. – North Cache 5, St. George 4
Game 3 – 4:30 p.m. – Pleasant Grove 11, Bear River 8
Game 4 – 7:30 p.m. – Layton leading Vernal 2-0 (ppd to Thursday, rain)

Thursday (elimination)
Game 5 – 10:30 a.m. – Lone Peak vs. St. George (at Pleasant Grove)
Game 6 – 1:30 p.m. – Bear River vs. tbd (at Pleasant Grove)
Thursday (no loss)
Game 7 – 11 a.m. – Helper vs. North Cache (at Kearns)
Game 8 – 2 p.m. – Pleasant Grove vs. tbd (at Kearns)
Thursday (elimination)
Game 9 – 4:30 p.m. – Loser Game 7 vs. winner Game 6 (Kearns)
Game 10 – 7:30 p.m. – Loser Game 8 vs. winner Game 5 (Kearns)

Friday (elimination)
Game 11 – 1 p.m. – Winner Game 9 vs. winner Game 10 (PG)
Friday (semifinal)
Game 12 – 4 p.m. – Winner Game 7 vs. winner Game 8 (PG)
Friday (elimination)
Game 13 – 7 p.m. – Winner Game 11 vs. loser Game 12 (PG)

Saturday (championship)
Game 14 – 3 p.m. – Winner Game 12 vs. winner Game 13 (Kearns)
Game 15 (if necessary) – 6 p.m. – rematch if one-loss team wins Game 14 (Kearns)

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