American Legion Baseball World Series games swung into action Friday at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C. Nearly 6,000 baseball fans filled the stands for all four games and were enamored with the state-of-the-art field, which received a complete overhaul in preparation for the 2011 World Series. One feature that had the fans and players in amazement was the 1,200 square-foot scoreboard with message center and video, a donation by Frank Stewart, president of Ultra. Ultra is a full-service armor fabrication that aims to protect civilians and military personnel.
Each game got under way with a special recognition of fallen heroes from each of the eight regions, followed by a dignitary throwing the first pitch. A rain storm rolled through in the morning but the skies cleared by noon and the sun beamed on the playing field.
Game 1: Midland, Mich., 14, Eden Prairie, Minn., 3Heading in to top of the third Midland, Mich., scored its first six runs and kept going. Midland pitcher Kenton San Miguel didn't allow a single hit in the final four innings while left fielder Alex Goodwin went 2-for-3 with four RBIs, helping lead Midland to a victory in an eight-inning 10-run rule-shortened game.
The 53-minute rain delay in the bottom of the fourth didn't halter Midland's game prowess, as they went on to pick up seven more runs and break a record. Designated hitter Alex Rapanos added a sacrifice fly to help Midland set an American Legion World Series record with four sacrifice flies.
"The third and fourth innings we slowed down with the bats but the rain delay gave us a chance to relax a little more and help keep the momentum going," Midland shortstop Adam Pijaszek ssaid. "The win is a good start, it gives us a confidence boost and hopefully we carry it in to tomorrow."
Even though runs and hits were limited for Eden Prairie, returning to the Legion Baseball World Series after being 2010 runners-up in Spokane, Wash., increases their confidence in making a comeback.
"We didn't come out ready to play and Midland did," Eden Prairie first baseman Tyler Peterson said. "And the rain delay didn't help us because we didn't stay mentally focused. But it's special to be in the World Series again so we are real proud of that. We are down one, but we've got the pitching and the hitting and we know we can do this, we are confident."
Midland (45-7) had 12 hits and zero errors. Eden Prairie (38-8) had seven hits and four errors.
Game 2: Tupelo, Miss. 6, Las Vegas 3Tupelo trailed Las Vegas until pitcher Will Cox hit a two-run single to center field and tied the game. By the seventh inning, Tupelo put four more runs on the board to claim the win
Following in Cox's footsteps was third baseman/pitcher Brandon Woodruff ,who was recently drafted by the Texas Rangers but may choose college over the pros. Woodruff hit an RBI single to center and picked up the win on the mound.
For a team that hit 15 homeruns during mid-south regionals, Tupelo delivered solid pitching and tough defense against a returning champion. Las Vegas won the 2008 Legion Baseball World Series in Shelby.
Las Vegas left fielder AJ Van Meetren went 3-for-4 with an RBI double, scoring the teams only two runs. But strong offense also came from third baseman TJ White, catcher Erik Van Meetren, right fielder Jerrel Latham and second baseman Justin Jones, who all added two hits apiece.
Tupelo (30-9) had 12 hits and two errors. Las Vegas (47-9) had 11 hits and one error.
Game 3: Brooklawn, N.J., 3, Waipahu, H.I., 2Legion Baseball World Series opening ceremonies got under way before the start of Game 3. The eight regional teams stood alongside field bases for recognition, American Legion National Commander Jimmie L. Foster threw out the first pitch and fireworks lit up the sky. Afterward, the crowd looked toward the sky as two Shelby native skydivers landed on the field, one of them carrying a 1,200-foot American flag.
As Brooklawn headed into the bottom of the eighth inning trailing 2-0, the undiscouraged players scored three runs to lift the team to a comeback victory.
Down two runs with two outs, Brooklawn pitcher Cody Brown delivered an RBI single. Teammate Steve Wilgus later followed with a run to tie the game, putting Brooklawn players, coaches and fans on their feet cheering for a comeback. Second baseman Joe Brooks gave his team what it needed and took the bottom of the ninth to the next level. With the bases loaded, Brooks hammered a single RBI for the winning hit
"I was trying to put something in play and get a run across," Brooks said. "Cody threw an awesome game, and I was trying to get him some runs and a win. It's the greatest feeling to know that we can come from behind and end up winning the ball game. It just shows you that we are going to play hard every game."
But for a team that traveled 4,824 miles to get to Shelby for the World Series, it was a hard loss, especially for Hawaii starting pitcher Chevas Numata. Over eight innings Numata struck out five Brooklawn players, and neither of the two runs scored against him were earned.
Brooklawn (45-4) had eight hits and three errors. Waipahu (24-6) had six hits and three errors.
Game 4: Gaffney, S.C., 12, Bedford, N.H., 1Sixty-six years ago Shelby Legion Post 82's baseball team won the World Series. And as Shelby celebrated Day 1 of the 2011 World Series, surviving members of the 1945 championship team stood on the batting mound as a record-breaking crowd of nearly 6,100 gave them a standing ovation. Afterward, it was time to play ball.
Gaffney wanted to show the standing-room-only crowd that they earned their spot in the World Series. And that they did. The South Carolina team led the entire way in topping Bedford in a seven-inning, 10-run rule-shortened game.
During the second inning Gaffney put four runs on the board and added four more in the top of the seventh with help from third baseman Colby Painter. Painter slammed a three-run home run, his third since the state tournament.
"I had two strikeouts earlier in the game, and I was looking to put in a play," Painter said. "We have all these fans here, and we can't let them down. We have to win it for them and that's what we came here to do."
Also contributing to Gaffney's was first baseman Bryon Munsterman, who went 3-for-3 and left fielder Dillon Palencia, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Bedford short stop Ian Urquhart scored the team's only run, which was unearned.
Gaffney (25-5-1) had 17 hits and three errors. Bedford (44-5) had four hits and three errors.
The final game ended at 12:30 a.m. Saturday with fireworks and excitement from the Carolina team's major win.
Saturday's game schedule (all-games EDT):Game 5: 10 a.m. Eden Prairie, Minn. vs. Waipahu, H.I.Game 6: 1 p.m. Las Vegas vs. Bedford, N.H.Game 7: 5 p.m. Midland, Mich. vs. Brooklawn, N.J.Game 8: 8 p.m. Tupelo, Miss. vs. Gaffney, S.C.
View photos of all four games by clicking here.