Having gone 17 innings without having scored a run, the Pedal Valves Cardinals were long overdue for a clutch hit.
Holy Cross right fielder Mickey Toscano delivered.
Toscano drove an 0-1 offering into center field for a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the seventh inning that scored designated hitter Lyall Ball from third with the decisive run as the reigning American Legion state champions defeated Retif Oil, 1-0, in Wednesday’s final semifinals of the Southeast Louisiana Regional Tournament played at Jesuit’s John Ryan Stadium.
Toscano’s hit ended a pitcher’s duel between right-handers Cyle Clayton of Holy Cross and Christian Hess of Retif.
Pedal Valves, 20-6, finished the five-day, double-elimination tournament with a 3-1 record that was enough to advance the independent-based Cardinals into Saturday’s opening round of the American Legion state tournament scheduled for Kirsch-Rooney Stadium.
Retif, 15-9, needed a victory to finish among the top two teams at the Southeast Regional and advance to the state tournament. But the Jesuit-based team still will serve as the host team in the Mid South Regional tournament scheduled for Aug. 2-6 at Kirsch-Rooney.
Pedal Valves now joins Gauthier Amedee as the Southeast Louisiana Regional qualifiers for the state tournament. East Ascension-based Gauthier Amedee defeated Rummel-based Deanie’s Seafood, 13-3, in six innings in Wednesday’s first semifinals that was forced to be played at two sites, Kirsch-Rooney and John Ryan, due to inclement weather.
American Legion baseball state commissioner Sidney Parfait canceled Thursday’s championship round between Gauthier Amedee and Pedal Valves after Wednesday’s semifinals rather than further deplete the pitching of the teams that already qualified for the state tournament.
“I’m just really proud of the character and guts of this team,’’ Pedal Valves coach Danny Riehm said. “We had to take the long road to get to the State Tournament and they did it. They wanted to be in the state tournament to get a chance to defend what is theirs.’’
Clayton, 2-0, was making his second start of the summer and hurled 5.1 perfect innings before the first of two hits Retif recorded. The tall senior fanned 15, walked none and struck out the side in second, third and fifth innings while retiring 13 of Retif’s first 15 batters via strikeout.
“This obviously was a big game for us,’’ Clayton said. “I just wanted to be consistent and throw strikes. First-pitch strikes were my main thing today.
“My curve ball was definitely on today. My slider was on. Everything I threw was on. All I had to do was stay consistent.’’
“Cyle Clayton had one of the best performances that I’ve seen at this level,’’ Riehm said. “He made big pitch after big pitch. He relished this opportunity to be on the mound with our season on the line. I’m really proud of him.’’
Toscano’s hit, his second in three at-bats, was the eighth surrendered by Hess who managed to match Clayton’s scoreless innings until three Pedal Valves hits in the seventh sealed the Cardinals’ victory.
Hess, 1-4, entered the game with an ERA of 1.12 and allowed just one run six innings versus the Cardinals while recording four strikeouts and one walk.
“Christian Hess deserved better,’’ Retif coach Joey Latino said. “This is his third straight outing where we don’t score a run for the kid. Until we figure out what to do offensively to score some runs, nothing is going to change.
“Christian has great command. He throws four pitches for strikes anywhere in the count. He competes. He’s a great kid. It’s just unfortunate that we can’t get him any runs.’’