American Legion: Sentinels earn way to championship with 2 wins

File photo of St. George Sentinels vs. Dixie Pilots, American Legion Baseball, St. George, UT, July 14, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

PLEASANT GROVE – Two days ago, the St. George Sentinels were dead in the water. Saturday, the St. George American Legion team is sailing proudly toward a possible state championship.

The Sentinels pulled out two more lopsided wins on Friday, eliminating Layton 9-3 in the early game and then sending former nemesis North Cache packing 12-2 in the late evening game. Two former Hurricane Tigers, Alec Flemetakis and Tobie Swenson, led the way with yeoman-like work on the mound in the twin killing.

Flemetakis went six-plus innings in the first game, holding a good-hitting Layton team to just one run through the six innings. Trey Allred came in and closed out the first game, retiring three Layton players to shut the door and end the elimination game.

Swenson, who was the No. 2 starter behind Flemetakis all spring at Hurricane High, pitched all six innings in the win over North Cache. He allowed just one earned run and kept the hard-hitting Titans off-balance all game.

File photo: Tobie Swenson, St. George Sentinels vs. Vernal, American Legion Baseball, St. George, UT, June 17, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“Our pitching today was excellent,” said St. George coach Shane Johanson. “In the win over North Cache, Tobie Swenson was just lights out after the first inning. The only other run they got was unearned.”

Johanson was also excited about the pitchers he has left heading into championship Saturday.

“Jagun Leavitt still hasn’t pitched so he’ll definitely pitch tomorrow,” Johanson said. “We are in surprisingly good shape, pitching-wise. We have five or six really good arms we can turn to if we need to.”

With Flemetakis throwing bee-bees, the Sentinels just needed to produce a little offense in the first game vs. Layton. Payton Higgins got hit by a pitch and came around to score on an RBI by Flemetakis in the first. The lead ballooned to 4-0 in the second with Leavitt’s 2-run single being the big blow.

Leavitt had another RBI in the fifth as the lead grew to 9-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh. Layton got two home and had the bases loaded when Johanson turned to reliever Allred. He struck out the first batter and Nick Horsley, who has been phenomenal with his bat in the tourney, used his arm to gun down the runner at second, who had wandered too far off the bag.

Allred then got the last batter out to end the game and secure the 9-3 victory.

“The play of our catchers (Horsley and Ryke Erickson) in this tournament has been excellent,” Johanson said. “Teams don’t dare steal on us and we’ve picked several guys off of the base paths. That play by Nick in the seventh was huge for us.”

File photo: Jagun Leavitt, St. George Sentinels vs. Jackson Hole, Wyo, American Legion Baseball, St. George, UT, June 21, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Six different Sentinels had two hits each in the Game 1 win as St. George rapped out 13 hits in the triumph.

The Sentinels then sat and watched Pleasant Grove bomb North Cache 14-0 in a no-loss bracket game, meaning the Titans and Sentinels would clash in late Friday night’s elimination game.

The day didn’t get much better for North Cache, which ran into hard-throwing Swenson. He gave up a 1-0 lead in the first, but worked out of a bases-loaded jam and didn’t allow another earned run the rest of the game.

It took exactly two pitches in the bottom of the first for St. George to tie the game. Allred, known for his speed and defense, socked an 0-1 pitch over the left field fence to tie it at 1-1. Higgins and Horsley both walked in the first and Higgins made it 2-1 after stealing two bags and scoring on a balk.

Leavitt’s 2-run single in the bottom of the second made it 4-1 for St. George and the rout was on. St. George scored four in the fourth (making it 8-2, the Titans got an unearned run in the third) and two each in the fifth and sixth to end the game.

Horsley was intentionally walked twice and struck out once. But he sent a moon shot past the center field fence in the sixth for yet another home run.

“Everyone here knows who he is now,” Johanson said. “They didn’t give him much to hit, but the one he did get, he just crushed.”

Leavitt ended up with a seven RBI day in the two games, while Weston Sampson had three singles in the late game and Higgins had four stolen bases and induced a pair of balks in the two games.

“It was kind of fun to get North Cache back after what they have done to us this year,” Johanson said. “They beat us in the championship of our own tournament last month and then they gave us our first loss of this tournament, so it was nice to get them back.”

The Sentinels, 24-11, need to beat Pleasant Grove twice on Saturday to be crowned state champions. The two teams have met three times this year, with Pleasant Grove taking two 1-run decisions back in early June and St. George grabbing a 5-0 victory just a week ago in the South Region tourney in Helper.

The Sentinels have finished second twice at state and third once, but have never captured the state title and ensuing berth in the American Legion regional tourney. Early losses at state have been the big problem.

“Yeah, I guess we like to do things the hard way,” Johanson said. “But we have five or six guys that were on last year’s team (which finished second, despite an early loss) and I think there was a feeling of quiet confidence, that we could do this, that we’ve been here before.”

The championship game is at 3 p.m. at Kearns High School’s Gates Field. If St. George wins that game, a second “if necessary” game is scheduled for 6 p.m., also at Gates Field.

American Legion State Tournament
Jul. 26-29 @ Gates Field, Kearns High School

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 9, Layton 3 (at PG)
Friday (semifinal)
Game 12 – 4 p.m. – Pleasant Grove 14, North Cache 0 (at PG)
Friday (elimination)
Game 13 – 7 p.m. – St. George 12, North Cache 2 (at PG)

Saturday (championship)
Game 14 – 3 p.m. – Pleasant Grove vs. St. George (Kearns)
Game 15 (if necessary) – 6 p.m. – rematch if St. George wins Game 14 (Kearns)

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