The middle of the lineup for Destrehan, La., Post 366 Pedal Valves Cardinals helped power the team to its first-ever trip to the American Legion World Series (ALWS) and the big bats in the middle made an impact in the opener of the ALWS, as well.
The Southeast champion, powered by four home runs, topped Great Lakes champion Danville, Ill., Post 210 by a score of 12-1 in six innings.
Josh MacCord went the distance for Louisiana, allowing just one run on three hits and striking out three, but he got plenty of help from his offense, predominately the number three and four hitters for the Cardinals.
Stephen Klein and Ron Franklin each went 7-for-13 (.538 batting average) and reached base in 12-of-18 plate appearances (.667 on-base percentage) in five regional games for Louisiana, and the duo each had four runs batted in Thursday in the ALWS opener.
Louisiana got on the board early with three runs in the top of the first. T.J. Thomas singled and moved to third on a sacrifice and a fielders choice. After a Klein single brought Thomas home, Franklin, who hit both of Louisiana’s home runs in the regional, stayed hot with a two-run blast to the opposite field make the game 3-0.
“Coming into this game we had a lot of confidence and we were anxious to play,” Franklin said. “Today as a team we had a very good effort everywhere. We played very good defense and stepped up defensively. All we wanted to do was step up on the defensive side and it came along with the bats.”
Illinois got one back in the bottom of the frame when a Chase Vinson single brought home Ernest Plummer.
It didn’t take long for the Cardinals to restore their three-run lead, however, as Kolby Bourgeois hit a 377-foot homer to make the score 4-1.
The Cardinals kept the momentum going in the third and once again it was Klein, the Most Valuable Player of the Southeast Regional tournament. The right fielder took a low 2-0 pitch over the right field scoreboard for the team’s third home run of the game.
In the top of the fifth, it was Franklin again, lining a bases loaded single up the middle to bring around Gavin Freeman and Nick Lorio. After a wild pitch, Kolby McWilliams brought home Klein on a sacrifice fly. Bourgeois brought home Franklin.
In the sixth, Nick Lorio brought home Gavin Freeman and then came around on Klein’s second home run of the game.
“Right now the whole team is really swinging well now. We like to fight and play our game,” Klein said.
That margin proved enough for MacCord to shut the door in the sixth and end the game due to the American Legion Baseball 10-run rule.
“MacCord has been doing well ever since the first start he had. He hit his spots and pitches his game,” Klein said.
Franklin added of the pitcher, “Every time MacCord is on the mound we know we’re going to get 100 percent effort from him every game.”
Both teams are in action on Saturday, with Danville looking to rebound against Albuquerque, N.M., Post 13 at 4 p.m., and Destrehan following against Festus, Mo., Post 253 at 7 p.m.
“We’re going to take each game one at a time and play our game,” Klein said. “If we play our game of baseball and don’t get nervous we will be perfectly fine.”