Refuel survived an “adjustment period” by starting pitcher Keith Meier and relied on an offense interim coach Taylor Riggs called “extremely impressive” to defeat Retif Oil 8-5 on Monday afternoon at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium in the American Legion southeast region baseball tournament.
Shaw-based Refuel moves on to a Tuesday game against Hahnville-based Otto Candies. The Legion state tournament will also be played at Kirsch-Rooney, July 19-23.
Jesuit-based Retif is eliminated from the regional tournament but could still find its way into the state tournament as a host team, pending the outcome of Tuesday and Wednesday regional play.
In the first three innings, Refuel capitalized on four Retif errors, three walks and extra base hits to take a 7-5 lead.
“That is our forte,” Riggs said. “When everything else fails, we know we will hit the ball.”
Riggs is normally Refuel’s assistant coach. Coach Kirk Bullinger was ejected from Sunday’s game and, by rule, had to sit out Monday’s game.
Refuel took a 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI single by Jace Nini. After Jesuit scored a run in its half of the first, two errors and a triple to deep center by Caiden Reid made it a 3-1 game. Josh Pantoja laid down a perfect bunt to score Reid, who had four RBIs.
Retif cobbled together three walks and a single in the bottom of the second to make it a 4-3 game.
But Refuel’s resilient offense struck again in the third, opening a 7-3 lead.
Matt Keller drove another triple deep to center and scored on Scott Ledet’s double off the wall. Two errors by Retif eventually scored Ledet.
Refuel starter Keith Meier (2-3) struggled through the first three innings, walking five and allowing four hits, including doubles by Dan Edmund and Myles Blunt.
Meier, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, also pitches for the Shaw JV Legion team.
“I have not seen him struggle all summer, until today,” Riggs said, adding that he felt Meier “had to adjust” to the “umpire’s strike zone and the heat.”
After throwing 70 pitches through the first three innings, he settled into a rhythm and threw only 36 pitches in the next three. He was removed from the game in the seventh with two on and two out. Brendon Guillot got the third out of the seventh and pitched scoreless relief to finish the game.
Juwan Orticke scored Refuel’s last run after doubling with two outs in the ninth. He scored on Reid’s third hit.