DENVER – The St. George Sentinels got right to the doorstep of the national tournament, but Nevada wouldn’t let them in.
Two big Nevada rallies late in the game spelled doom for the Sentinels, who fell 11-2 in the championship of the American Legion West Regional tournament Sunday afternoon at Regency Field in Denver.
“I can tell you that nobody here expected Utah to do anything, maybe win one game,” Sentinels coach Shane Johanson said. “Second place always stinks, but we’re trying to look at the big picture. It was an outstanding year.”
St. George won the Utah state title and then outlasted six of the seven other teams at the West Regional. Two Colorado teams, plus squads from New Mexico, Arizona, California and Texas fell by the wayside during the week-long tournament. But Nevada, which beat St. George 6-5 in 11 innings on Friday, went undefeated in the tournament.
The Henderson, Nev., Blue Sox scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh and then put the game away with six more in the bottom of the eighth Sunday to hand the St. George team its second loss in three days.
“That’s a great ball club, but we were right there with them until the eighth inning,” Johanson said. “We just ran out of arms. In a tournament like this, where you’re going nine innings (or more), you’re just trying to win. You can’t think too much about the next day or the next game.”
Alec Flemetakis started and pitched well for the Sentinels. He pitched seven innings and actually held the lead for 3 1/2 of those and it was 2-2 heading into the seventh. The former Hurricane Tiger may have tired in the seventh, topping the 100-pitch plateau. He finished the seventh, but gave up three runs (one unearned) as Nevada took a 5-2 lead into the eighth.
Unfortunately, the Sentinels bats couldn’t make any noise in the top of the eighth and Nevada jumped on the St. George bullpen for six runs in the bottom of the eighth to put the game away.
“I talked to their coach after the game and he had nothing but nice things to say,” Johanson said. “In fact, he was breathing a huge sigh of relief. We gave all we had and just came up a little short. But second place in the Western Region in the entire USA is a great accomplishment.”
Flemetakis and his teammates jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Payton Higgins singled home Jagun Leavitt, who had doubled. With two outs, Flemetakis came through with a double of his own to score Higgins and give St. George the early 2-0 advantage.
Nevada got one back in the bottom of the first on a two-out RBI single by Jesse Fonteboa to make it 2-1.
With Flemetakis throwing well, the score stayed that way until the bottom of the fourth. The Blue Sox tried to tie it after a triple by Garrett Giles, but Fonteboa was thrown out trying to score from first. However, Nevada pushed the tying run across moments later on a St. George error to make it 2-2.
The game stayed tied until the bottom of the seventh, even though St. George had runners in scoring position in the fifth and sixth innings.
Nevada broke the tie in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, the Blue Sox loaded the bases with two singles and a walk. Roger Riley hit a fielder’s choice that plated Erik Cruz and made it 3-2. A wild pitch by Flemetakis brought home Dave Hudleson to make it 4-2 and Nevada added one more on a single by pitcher Ryne Nelson to make it 5-2.
The Blue Sox then added six more runs in the eighth on six hits, two walks, an error and two Utah wild pitches. The loss means St. George went 3-2 in the West Regional, coming after a 6-1 run in the Utah state tournament. The Sentinels end up 29-13 on the year.
“Four or five weeks ago, we came back from the California tournament 0-4 and we were frustrated because we have a ton of talent, but couldn’t get the team to gel,” Johanson said. “Then, all of the sudden it did come together. The guys started playing for each other and really came to love each other like brothers.”
Nevada, with the fireballer Nelson leading the way, will represent the West in the American Legion national tournament next week in North Carolina.
“It will be very interesting to see how they do, because that’s a very good team,” Johanson said. “They’ve got some big sticks and that pitcher (Nelson) plays for Oregon and he was throwing about 92 or so. Still, we jumped on him and had our chances. We felt like we should have won that game on Friday and we were right there today.”
This is the fifth season for the St. George Sentinels and their first trip to the Regionals.
West Region website (with stats)
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