Jace Nini paced his team to victory with his arm and his bat.
Nini had three hits with an RBI and also threw eight innings of two-run baseball on the hill to pace Shaw-based Refuel to a 9-2 victory over Brother Martin-based Peake BMW in the winners bracket game Sunday in the American Legion State tournament.
With the win, Refuel remains undefeated in bracket play and will play the winner of Sunday’s late Deanie’s Seafood-Retif Oil game at 7:30 p.m. Monday night. Peake BMW will face Hahnville-based Otto Candies in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Monday.
Otto Candies defeated St. Landry 13-5, while Gulf Coast edged Crowley 4-3 in a pair of elimination games earlier Sunday.
Refuel jumped in front in its first at-bat, pushing across three runs on five hits.
With one out, Refuel put together five consecutive hits. Joshua Pantoja singled, Brandon Guillot doubled, Nini had an RBI single, Matt Keller had an RBI single and Scott Ledet singled. Kyle Flettrich’s fielder’s choice scored Nini to make it 3-0 Refuel.
Refuel coach Kirk Bullinger was particularly happy with squad’s offensive output.
“We came out hitting the ball from the first time we were up,” he said. “Anytime you play a team like Peake BMW and put a three-spot up in the first inning, it sends a message that we are here to play. Hitting can be contagious, and when the front of our lineup started off the game like we did, it just filtered through to the rest of our lineup. It just gave everybody a lot of confidence.”
After pushing across five runs in the fifth inning, Refuel knocked Peake BMW starter Corey Gaconi out of the game. With one out, Nini tripled and scored on a RBI triple by Ledet. Gaconi was lifted after back-to-back walks to Flettrich and Lance Landry.
Nini finished the game 3-for-4 with a triple and RBI.
“It is a big win for us to now be 2-0 in this tournament,” he said. “I felt good out there today pitching against them (Peake BMW). They are a good team, and it is hard to get them out, but we did what we had to do in the field and when we were swinging.”
Fallon gave up a two-run single to Caiden Reid, and Pantoja followed with an RBI single to make it 8-2 Refuel.
Peake BMW pushed across a run in the third inning on an RBI single by Kyler Johnston and Owen Magee’s RBI single in the sixth inning.
On the hill, Nini allowed two runs on six hits in eight innings, striking out three and walking two.
Bullinger was impressed with his right-hander’s performance.
“He’s a pretty good strike thrower,” Bullinger said. “He is very efficient in the way he approaches his job on the mound. He pounded the strike zone with a lot of fastballs, breaking balls and a change-up when we needed to use it. When his fastball was on like it was tonight, we really don’t need to use too many other different pitches. Add to that the fact that he fields his position well, and Jace just had an outstanding game for us tonight.”