American Legion: Sentinels break out the hitting sticks to stay alive

File photo of Nick Horsley, St. George Sentinels, American Legion Baseball, St. George, UT, July 12, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

PLEASANT GROVE – After managing just four runs in Wednesday’s opening-round loss to North Cache, the St. George Sentinels’ bats came alive Thursday with 28 runs in a pair of mercy-rule victories at the American Legion State Tournament in northern Utah.

St. George beat Lone Peak in the early elimination game 11-1, then blasted Vernal 17-7 in Thursday’s later game to advance in the one-loss bracket and live to play another day (at least).

The win-or-go-home streak continues for the Sentinels Friday at 1 p.m. with a matchup vs. Layton at Pleasant Grove High School.

“It really is kind of contagious, when guys start hitting the ball,” St. George coach Shane Johanson said. “Of course, the pitching we faced wasn’t as good on this second day, but we also just started swinging it better.”

The hitting star of the day was Nick Horsley, who socked three home runs in the two victories, plus added a triple a double and an amazing 10 RBIs in two games. The runs batted in gives him 48 on the year, breaking the team record previously owned by former Snow Canyon star Josh Howard.

“Nick had been hitting O.K. lately, but he really snapped out of his funk today,” Johanson said. “And when your No. 4 hitter is swinging it, everyone else starts to swing it as well.”

Horsley hit two homers in the first game, a mercy-rule win over Lone Peak. He had five RBIs in the five-inning victory and helped support the pitching of Payton Higgins, Landon Levine and Jaiger Crosby.

Horsley also led off the first inning with a 3-run homer in the later game to get his team started off right.

Jagun Leavitt, St. George Sentinels vs. Vernal, American Legion Baseball, St. George, UT, June 17, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

In that second game, facing a very familiar Vernal team, things turned into a dogfight.

“We’ve played them five times this year, and I’ve never seen them hit the ball like they did in that game,” Johanson said. “It’s a good thing we were hitting it well, too.”

Vernal tied it at 3-3 in the second inning. A 7-run rally in the bottom of the second made it 10-3 for the Sentinels, but Vernal would not go away. The eastern Utah boys scored three in the third to cut it to 10-6 and stayed within 12-7 into the sixth before the Sentinels finally put the game away with another huge rally.

St. George scored two in the fourth and five in the sixth to end the game via the mercy rule at 17-7.

“We’ve got a team of really good hitters, we’ve just been in a little slump lately and haven’t gotten it going,” Johanson said. “It was good to see them break out of it today. We’re not going to change a thing going into tomorrow’s games.”

The Sentinels, 22-11 overall, still need to keep winning to keep their season alive. The 1 p.m. game against Layton will lead to a 7 p.m. Friday game for the winner and end the season for the loser. Both teams were the No. 1 seed from their respective regions heading into the tournament.

If St. George wins, it would play the loser of the North Cache-Pleasant Grove game, which is at 4 p.m. All three games Friday will be at Pleasant Grove High, with the championship Saturday (3 p.m.) back at Gates Field at Kearns High School.

Jagun Leavitt and Tobie Swenson also hit the ball well Thursday for St. George. Leavitt had a triple and scored three times in the second game and Swenson reached base every time up. Higgins also hit a solo homer in the nightcap.

If the Sentinels can win two on Friday, they would play in Saturday’s 3 p.m. championship game, needing two wins to get the state title.

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. – Vernal 7, Layton 5

Thursday (elimination)
Game 5 – 10:30 a.m. – St. George 11, Lone Peak 1 (at Pleasant Grove)
Game 6 – 1:30 p.m. – Layton 11, Bear River 1 (at Pleasant Grove)
Thursday (no loss)
Game 7 – 11 a.m. – North Cache 9, Helper 7 (at Kearns)
Game 8 – 2 p.m. – Pleasant Grove 8, Vernal 7 (at Kearns)
Thursday (elimination)
Game 9 – 4:30 p.m. – Layton 8, Helper 4 (Kearns)
Game 10 – 7:30 p.m. – St. George 17, Vernal 7 (Kearns)

Friday (elimination)
Game 11 – 1 p.m. – St. George vs. Layton (at PG)
Friday (semifinal)
Game 12 – 4 p.m. – North Cache vs. Pleasant Grove (at PG)
Friday (elimination)
Game 13 – 7 p.m. – Winner Game 11 vs. loser Game 12 (at 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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