SHELBY, N.C. — In their American Legion World Series opener on Friday, Jesuit-based Retif Oil stranded 12 runners on base and relied heavily on outfielder Ben Hess’ dramatics to earn a one-run win over Cromwell, Connecticut.
Saturday was a different story.
Retif scored twice in the first inning, added two more in the second inning, and three times tap danced out of testy situations in a 5-2 win over previously unbeaten Chapin-Newberry, South Carolina.
Hess continued his outstanding play, driving in runs with singles in each of the first two innings and saved a run with a head-first, diving grab in the fourth. But, unlike Friday, he got lots of help from his teammates.
Brandon Briuglio needed just 78 pitches to get through seven innings and earned the win. He allowed two runs on six hits. Twice Newberry stranded the bases loaded.
With Retif leading 4-1 and two outs in the fourth inning Newberry had the bases full after a single, error, and walk. Briuglio got Kevis Burtin, the second leading hitter for South Carolina during the tournament, to ground out and end the threat.
Retif was up 5-1 in the seventh inning when Newberry delivered three straight singles with one out. After a sacrifice fly, Danton Hyman came up as the potential tying run. He singled just under the outstretched glove of second baseman Alex Galy to re-load the bases. Briuglio then coaxed a tricky ground ball to first base off the bat of Peyton Spangler. The hard hit bouncer went between the legs of Hyman who was starting to run from first to second. Daniel Edmund gloved it and went to the bag for the final out.
In pivotal situations, Briuglio’s teammates did exactly what he expected.
“I was just trying to keep the ball low and let my defense play,” said Briuglio. “They played great (Saturday).”
Retif coach Joey Latino said Briuglio followed the game plan.
“We told him before the game just pound the strike zone,” Latino said. “When Brandon’s at his best, he’s getting a lot of ground ball outs. He kept the ball down, got his curveball over, his fastball over for strikes and the main thing he did was he got ahead in the count a lot.”
And like Hess rising to the occasion Friday, Latino had no doubt that his first baseman would make a play in the field even if he had to gather a grounder after it traveled through the wickets of a base runner.
“Dan is about as good as they come defensively,” said Latino. “He’s one of the best, if not the best, I’ve ever coached at that position. I can’t tell you how many times he’s bailed us out.”
After a 58-minute weather delay, Hayden Fuentes pitched the final two innings for Retif and earned the save. After allowing one hit in the eighth inning, Newberry got a two-out walk and a single to bring the tying run the plate in the ninth. Fuentes got Hyman on a lazy fly to right field to end the game.
South Carolina dropped to 1-1 in World Series play and 29-1 on the season with the loss. Retif is now 2-0 in the World Series and 33-7 for the year. Retif plays 1-1 Berryhill, Michigan at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. If all three teams end up 2-1 in pool play, the two teams who have allowed the fewest runs per inning played will advance to Monday’s semifinals.