Jacksonville, Fla., Post 88 staved off elimination Saturday with an extra-innings victory over Cromwell, Conn., Post 105 in Game 7 of the 2014 American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C.
Florida was held scoreless until the top of the sixth when it scored a run to force a 1-1 tie. The stalemate lasted until the 10th inning, when Trent Brown scored a run, giving Florida its first win of the tournament.
Florida is now 1-2 in pool play and does not play Sunday. Connecticut is 0-2 and will play Midland, Mich., Sunday at 5 p.m. in Game 11.
Pitching nine innings for Florida and earning the win was Jesse Prather, who has cerebral palsy. Prather has played Legion Baseball for five years, originally playing first base and then moving to the mound after realizing he had a good pitching arm. His right arm is weaker than his left, so he pitches and catches with his left arm, holding his glove with his right arm while he pitches.
“I have a disability, but I think that helps me on the mound because people don’t think I’ll be able to pitch,” Prather said. “It feels amazing to be on the mound with a disability, and it just shows that anything in life is possible.”
This is Prather’s last season playing Legion Baseball, and he said ending at the World Series “feels amazing; I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Teammate Paul Genners spoke highly of Prather.
"(He worked) his tail off all game and as a team we wanted to pick him up so we worked our tail off in the 10th inning, trying to keep Connecticut from scoring,” Prather said.
Making late comebacks has been routine all season for Florida, said Trent Brown. “The whole season has been a close game almost every game that we played. We don’t like to lose; we like to be winners. We had to get at least one win for our hometown.”
During Game 8, fans at Keeter Stadium watched players from the Waipahu, Hawaii, team rely on their speed to win their second game of the tournament against Chico, Calif.
“We are not the biggest team so we focus on what we are good at and that’s speed when running bases,” third baseman Josh Inouye. “Once in awhile we hit really well, but we have to earn our wins with hitting the bases.”
Hawaii was at bat 39 times, and had 12 hits and seven RBIs.
In what shortstop Brent Sakurai called a showing of team chemistry, each member of the Hawaii team bleached strips of his hair for the game. Hear more about the bleached hair here.
Hawaii is 2-0 in pool play and will play Omaha, Neb., Sunday at 8 p.m. in Game 12. California is 0-2 and will play Columbia, Tenn., at 1 p.m. in Game 10.
Both Midland, Mich., Post 165 and Brooklawn, N.J., Post 72 took the field in Game 9 undefeated and kept fans on the edge of their seats. Michigan held a 5-2 lead headed into the bottom of the fourth but New Jersey rallied back with four runs to take the lead. But by the top of the ninth, the score was tied 8-8. New Jersey had the last at-bat and won the game 9-8 on a wild pitch that allowed a runner to cross home.
“Playing baseaball is all about the fight. There’s never a doubt if were down 12 nothing or up 12 nothing, we play the same exact way every single inning,” said New Jersey pitcher Matt Parr, who played in the 2013 World Championship. “It’s awesome being back here after winning last year’s World Series. We have an off day tomorrow, but we’re not done yet. We are here to stay.”
New Jersey is 3-0 in the pool play, earning a spot in Monday’s semifinal games. They have Sunday off. Michigan is 1-1 in the pool play and will play Connecticut on Sunday.
Pool play wraps up Sunday with the top two teams from each pool advancing to Monday's semifinals. The championship is Tuesday at 7 p.m. and will be televised live on ESPNU.
World Series Day 4 games:
Game 10, 1 p.m.: Columbia, Tenn. vs. Chico, Calif.
Game 11, 5 p.m.: Cromwell, Conn. vs. Midland, Mich.
Game 12, 8 p.m.: Omaha, Neb. vs. Waipahu, Hawaii
Watch the games live on ESPN3.com and follow coverage and read game highlights here.