CONWAY, Ark. — Jesuit- based Retif Oil is headed back to North Carolina.
Retif Oil came from behind in dramatic fashion again Sunday to knock off the Southwest Shockers of Lawton, Okla., 7-6 in the championship of the Mid-South Region American Legion tournament at Hendrix College’s Warrior Field.
With its second rally in as many days, Retif qualified for the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C., beginning Thursday. Retif will open Friday at 12:30 p.m. against the Northeast Regional champion. Retif won both the Mid-South Regional and World Series in 2012.
Retif, the Louisiana state champion, enters the World Series 31-6-1 and hasn’t lost to a Legion team since early June.
“This team never has any sense of panic,” Retif coach Joey Latino said, referring to the 6-0 deficit after two innings. “They just keep plugging and chipping away, and they got it done.”
The Shockers, who lost to Retif in Friday’s winner’s bracket final 9-2 got to Retif pitcher Mason Mayfield early. Conner Bost opened with a double to right and scored on Sawyer Tool’s single that was helped by a throwing error. The Shockers batted around, scoring three runs on four hits, a walk and two uncharacteristic errors by Retif and left the bases loaded.
Retif had committed just six errors in four previous tournament games.
The Shockers added three runs on five hits and another error as they batted around again in the second and again left the bases loaded. After two, Oklahoma led 6-0, and it could’ve been worse.
“After the first two innings, it didn’t look like we were catching any breaks,” Latino said. “But I felt like if we could hang in, we could get something going.”
The first thing that helped was Mayfield steadied. After the second inning, he allowed just six base runners the rest of the way on three hits and three walks, and the Retif defense backed him up, committing just one error in the final seven innings.
Asked to describe the first two innings, Mayfield said, “Bad.”
“I came out with the jitters, but I just relaxed and settled down, threw strikes and let my defense play behind me,” he said.
He attributed the turnaround to luck.
“Balls started falling,” he said. “I just found a groove.”
Mayfield finished his second complete game of the tournament, having won the opener over the Ottawa (Kansas) Arrows. He finished Sunday allowing six runs on 12 hits, struck out five and walked four. He was named MVP of the tournament with 13 strikeouts in 21 innings.
“Throughout the game we all had faith we could gut it out,” said Retif third baseman Hayden Fuentes, who fielded a grounder and threw out a runner at first from his knees in the third inning as the Retif defense helped its pitcher. “Mason threw a helluva game.”
Retif left the bases loaded in the bottom of the third but didn’t hit the scoreboard until the bottom of the sixth. Trent Forshag walked before first baseman Dan Edmund delivered a two-out home run to right field that brought Retif within 6-2.
“That energized our dugout and got us back in the flow,” Latino said of Edmund’s shot.
But the Oilers didn’t take the lead until the bottom of the eighth. Scott Crabtree walked before Edmund doubled to center field. Fuentes singled to left to bring home both to cut the lead to 6-4 and chase Oklahoma starter Tucker White. Jake Licciardi singled, and Harrison Daste laid down a sacrifice bunt and reached first on an error by reliever Braden Box to load the bases with no outs. Nick Ray’s fielder’s choice allowed Fuentes to score, cutting the lead to 6-5.
With two outs and runners at first and second, Ben Hess’ RBI single to center field scored Daste and tie the game, and Ray scored the winning run on the center fielder’s error.
Retif batted around in the eighth for five runs on four hits, two errors and a walk.
Both of the Shockers’ errors came in the decisive eighth.
With the lead, Mayfield struck out the first batter in the top of the ninth, gave up a single, got a fly-out to right and struck out the final batter for the win.
“We’re a streaky team, and we knew if we got our bats rolling, we could do it,” Edmund said. “Helluva job by Mason to keep us in the game. It was a whole team effort and really fun.”
The Oilers finished with seven runs on nine hits with four errors. Edmund went 2-for-4 (double and home run) with two RBIs; Fuentes went 2-for-2 with two singles, two RBIs and two walks. Hess had two singles and an RBI.