After 13 nail-biting innings, Eden Prairie, Minn., overcame last year's Legion World Series championship loss to Oklahoma by edging Tupelo, Miss., 5-4 in 13 innings Tuesday night to capture the 2011 crown.
"This just feels great and unbelievable," center fielder Danny Blasy said. "I can't believe we pulled it off."
Eden Prairie defeated Las Vegas 2-1 during Game 14 on Tuesday and turned around to play the championship game against Tupelo. The Central Plains regional champs ended a 4-4 tie in to the top of the 13th inning with the help of first baseman Tyler Peterson. Tupelo pitcher Ben Hudspeth walked Peterson, who advanced to third on a fielding error by second baseman Kirk Roberts. Eden Prairie's Jordan Smith stepped up to bat, and the left fielder's RBI groundout brought Peterson across home plate for the winning run.
"This is the best feeling of my life after last year was such a disappointment," Peterson said. "Coming in today we just knew we were not losing, we can't, we were not going home again like that. We are taking this one home for us. This just feels so amazing!"
Tupelo had a strong chance to make a comeback at the bottom of the inning with singles from Cody Shrewsbury and Tyler Moore, but Eden Prairie's defense held up. Tupelo also held a 4-3 lead up until the eighth inning, when Eden Prairie short stop Blake Schmit scored to tie the game.
The doubleheader kept Eden Prairie on the field for 22 innings, but the team showed great resiliency in winning the championship in front of more than 5,800 fans at Keeter Stadium. It was a great comeback for the Central Plains regional champs, especially for head coach Scott Hackett, who noted last year that Eden Prairie was missing tough defense, something they pride themselves on. But it wasn't left out this year.
"Making a comeback from last year feels great; I can't even explain how well it feels right now," Hackett said. "These guys have been through a lot. Last year was pretty heartbreaking for a lot of them and this was their goal to get back here. I can't say enough about the group of guys we coach. They are just phenomenal kids and I love each one of them."
Once the champion's excitement settled, the award ceremony got under way. Both teams received banners, trophies and World Series banners. A few notable individual awards were also given.
Eden Prairie Blake Schmit was honored with the George W. Rulon Player of the Year and the Click Cowger RBI award, while teammate Tony Skjefte received the Rawlings Big Stick award. And Tupelo's Brandon Woodruff received the James Daniel Jr. Sportsmanship Award.
All 15 games of The American Legion World Series were aired live on ESPN3.com. And the number of fans who came out to Keeter Stadium to support the eight regional champions created history. During Game 9 on Sunday, the Legion World Series reached a record total paid-attendance crowd of more than 60,000, beating the record established 75 years ago in Spartansburg, S.C. But after the championship game Tuesday evening, the number of fans soared another 26,000 for a total of 86,000 paid-attendance.
Click here for a boxscore from the championship game.