LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — New Orleans-based Retif Oil was positioned to reach the championship round of the American Legion Mid-South Regional.
Instead, the youthful team’s season ended Sunday afternoon at Gary Hogan Field when Columbia (Tenn.) Post 19 used an eighth-inning double steal to score the winning run and eliminate Retif 8-7.
Retif (25-13) fell a game short of playing on the final day of the eight-team tournament, which featured state champions from Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.
“It’s been a great group of kids, man,” Retif coach Joey Latino said. “I don’t think anybody would have guessed we would have gotten this far. It’s a testament to their hard work, their determination and their character.”
Retif led 7-6 after seven innings, but Columbia (42-10) used a two-run rally in the eighth to advance.
Retif starter Jack Burk, who labored through 7.2 innings, retired the first two hitters to open the eighth.
But Alex McKelvy singled to right, and Hayden Holt followed with a walk.
On a 3-2 pitch — Burks’ 149th of the game — designated hitter Jack Usher singled to left to score McKelvy and tie the score at 7.
Columbia then executed a double steal, with Holt beating a throw home when catcher Trent Forshag tried to catch Usher stealing second.
Reliever Dylan Stewart earned the save, allowing one hit and striking out three in two innings.
Ben Wright went the first seven innings for the victory. Wright surrendered 12 hits and seven runs, five earned.
Burk allowed eight hits, eight earned runs — five in the first three innings — walked six and hit three batters.
“He had some command issues early,” Latino said. “I think he got a little frustrated there, and that led to a few runs. But, hey, you’ve got to deal with everything. There’s adversity throughout the game. Once he settled in, he got us through the middle innings in good shape, and we were able to get the lead.”
Designated hitter Scott Crabtree went 4-for-4 with three RBIs to lead Retif.
Crabtree snapped a 6-6 tie when he lofted an RBI double to deep right field with one out in the seventh inning.
Retif overcame an early 5-3 deficit to take a 6-5 lead after five innings. Retif pulled within 5-4 on Crabtree’s RBI double in the third inning.
Dan Edmund sparked a two-run rally in the fifth with a walk. He moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Forshag’s solid single to left field.
After Crabtree singled to center, Brandon Briuglio bounced an RBI single to right field to give Retif a 6-5 lead.
Columbia loaded the bases with one out in the sixth inning after Burk hit two batters and issued a walk.
Peyton Sockwell scored on a fielder’s choice to make it 6-6, but Burk escaped further damage by striking out Holt.
Latino’s son, Christian, pitched the final 1.1 innings.
Christian Latino and Glynn Hyer, the winning pitcher in Friday’s 8-6 victory over Pittsburg, Kansas, are the only two players Retif is scheduled to lose to eligibility.
“I’m very excited about the group of kids that I have coming back next year,” Joey Latino said. “When I look back on this summer, I’m going to remember a summer of hard work and dedication. These kids did a great job.”