American Legion: Extra-inning heartbreak as Sentinels suffer 1st loss

Pregame huddle, American Legion West regional, St. George Sentinels vs. Nevada, Denver, Colo., Aug. 4, 2017 | Photo by Matt Staheli, for St. George News

DENVER – After a lengthy lightning delay and a game that went into the 11th inning, the St. George Sentinels could only watch helplessly as two big leads evaporated into the cool mountain evening and the team from Henderson, Nev., walked off with a 7-6 victory at the American Legion West Regional Friday night at Regency Field in Denver.

The win leaves the Nevada club as the only unbeaten team left in the tourney and leaves the Sentinels fighting for their lives with a Saturday afternoon game against California. St. George and Chico, Calif., will square off at 3 p.m. Saturday in an elimination game. The winner will play the winner of Nevada and Texas on Sunday at noon.

“Incredible game, where we competed until the end,” Sentinels coach Shane Johanson said. “With so much at stake and playing a really good team like that, it’s extremely tense at the end.”

Friday’s loss will likely be remembered as a game of missed opportunities. The Sentinels led 3-0 early on and then took a 6-3 advantage into the late innings. Even in extra innings, the designated visiting team, the Sentinels, had several scoring opportunities. Two St. George players were thrown out on the base paths in the top of the 10th and the Sentinels got their first two men on in the 11th, but had a runner thrown out trying to advance to third base on a single by Tobie Swenson.

“We came up short on throwing enough strikes and making some mistakes on the base paths,” Johanson said.

Like Thursday’s win over Arizona, the Friday game started well (after a 30-minute lightning delay) for St. George. Alec Flemetakis hit a two-run homer in the top of the first as part of a three-run rally for the early lead.

Nevada countered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first and then brought home the tying run in the bottom of the fourth.

File photo of Alec Flemetakis, St. George Sentinels vs. Cincinnati, Ohio, American Legion Baseball, St. George, UT, June 23, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

It was 3-3 heading into the sixth when the St. George bats got hot again. A one-out single by Nick Horsley was followed by double from Flemetakis to put runners at second and third. Weston Sampson singled through the left side to bring home a run and make it 4-3. Ryke Erickson followed with an RBI single to center to make it 5-3.

The next batter, Landon Levine, singled to load the bases and a wild pitch brought home Sampson to make it 6-3.

But the Blue Sox from Nevada battled back. In the bottom of the eighth, Nevada made it 6-5 by scoring on a bases loaded walk and a ground out. The Blue Sox then tied it in the bottom of the ninth. Jerry Smith came up with a single that brought home Erik Cruz and sent the game into extra innings.

After dodging a St. George bullet in the top of the 10th and the top of the 11th, Nevada finally ended the game in the bottom of the 11th. Garrett Giles led off with a single to left and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jerry Smith. David Hudleson then got his third hit of the game on a blooper to right field that was ruled a double and scored Giles easily from second.

The Sentinels left seven men on base, an improvement from the 12 left on base on Thursday. But St. George also had four men thrown out on the base paths. Johanson said the idea was to put pressure on the Nevada defense, which committed three errors in the game.

The Sentinels can’t take another loss or their season is over. The first test will be Saturday at 3 p.m. against Chico, Calif., a team that started the West Regional with a 15-3 win over Texas, but then dropped a game Thursday by a 9-1 score to the Nevada team that just beat the Sentinels.

California bounced back with an impressive 17-6 win over New Mexico to eliminate that team Friday afternoon. The Chico team is 2-1 in the West Regional, as is St. George.

The winner of Saturday’s Utah-California game plays the winner of Texas-Nevada Sunday at noon.

St. George, now 28-12 on the summer, got three hits each from Flemetakis and Horsley, with Flemetakis homering and picking up two RBIs. No other Sentinel had more than one hit in the game.

Jagun Leavitt started on the mound for St. George and pitched seven strong innings, leaving the game with a 6-3 lead. Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead and the Sentinels will have to try their luck in the one-loss bracket.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

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

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