American Legion: St. George team hopes trip to West Regional is fruitful

St. George Sentinels are in the Western Regional playoffs, file photo from St. George, UT, July 14, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

DENVER – There have been times in the past when the St. George Sentinels baseball team would have just been “happy to be here” at the Western Regionals in Denver.

This year, not so much.

“It’s great to be here and they are treating us very well, but we are here on business,” Sentinels coach Shane Johanson said. “The hope is that we are peaking at the right time and I really feel like we have the team this year to do some (special) things.”

The Sentinels lost the first game of the Utah state tournament to North Cache, but went on to win six straight games and claim the state title, sweeping unbeaten Pleasant Grove 6-5 and 4-2 last Saturday. With complete-game victories from Blake Milne and Jagun Leavitt on that day, Johanson stressed that his team is mostly about pitching and defense.

“I’m really not that concerned with the other teams and who they pitch,” he said. “We’re hitting the ball well, but for me, it’s all about pitching and defense and getting a few timely hits. We won’t need to score a lot of runs to win games.”

The Sentinels open the West Regional Tournament with a Wednesday (1 p.m. MST) matchup against the state champ from New Mexico. The eight teams at the West regional are Arizona (Tucson Post 7), California (Chico), Nevada (Henderson Post 40), Colorado (Grand Junction), Colorado (Host, Eaglecrest Post 1), New Mexico (Albuquerque Post 13), and Texas (League City Post 554) – and of course, Utah (St. George Post 90).

If St. George wins Wednesday afternoon, its next game would be Thursday at 7 p.m. against the winner of Arizona and the host Colorado school. Johanson said he has a team full of great players, but mentions three in particular that he needs to step up.

Ryke Erickson, St. George Sentinels vs. Sevier, American Legion Baseball, St. George, UT, July 12, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“Ryke Erickson has become a real leader on this team the last six or eight weeks,” Johanson said. “He’s hitting the ball well, but he’s also stepped into a leadership role on this team. Alec Flemetakis will likely be our first-game starter, plus he’s our shortstop, so it’s important that he plays well. And Nick – Nick Horsley – he was the player of the year in the state of Utah and he’s our No. 4 hitter. We need him to hit and be picking up RBIs. Hitting in baseball really is contagious and infectious and if those guys are hitting, especially Nick, then the whole team tends to hit.”

The American Legion website offers free pitch-by-pitch live game updates for fans who wish to follow the action. All games will be played at the Regency Athletic Complex in Denver (on the campus of Metro State University).

The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization. Focusing on service to veterans, servicemembers and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States.

From a field of over 3,600 teams, the top 64 have emerged in the quest to earn a trip to the 2017 American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C., Aug. 10-15.

The 50 state champions earn automatic bids into the field, as do the eight regional tournament hosts. Among states without the privilege of hosting a regional, the runners-up from the six departments with the most registered teams round out the field.

Matchups, brackets, site information and more are available on the regional tournament hub, located at americanlegion.sportngin.com. Live stats are expected to be provided for all eight regions.

The field is guaranteed to produce a new champion for 2017, as last year’s winner Texarkana, Ark., fell in the Arkansas state tournament. Regionals begin Aug. 2 and go through Aug. 6.

American Legion also has a mobile app to help fans follow the action.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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