NEW ORLEANS – Gauthier Amedee is bound for the American Legion Baseball World Series, again.
For the fourth time in Gonzales Post 81 program history and first since 2013, the Wombats have advanced to the Legion World Series after winning two elimination games Sunday in the Mid-South Regional Tournament at Kirsch Rooney Stadium.
The Wombats defeated defending Mid-South champion Bryant, Ark., Post 298, 1-0, in the afternoon championship game after eliminating Tupelo, Miss., Post 49, 7-2, in the morning semifinals.
Dutchtown left-hander Austin Bankert and East Ascension shortstop and closer Preston Thrash supplied the pitching prowess in the championship victory against Bryant while St. Amant catcher Reed Babin and center fielder Zane Zeppuhar collaborated to produce the game’s lone run.
In the semifinals, St. Amant right-hander Dwain Guice pitched a complete game four-hitter that was backed by a 13-hit offensive to down Tupelo.
The Wombats defeated the Arkansas state champion Black Sox for the second time in as many days after avenging a 2-0 loss to Tupelo from Thursday in the morning.
East Ascension-based Gauthier Amedee (41-6) won four consecutive elimination games to complete a 5-1 run to its first Mid-South Regional championship since 2013 and secure a trip to the World Series that opens Thursday at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C.
“Our kids believe in each other, they believe they can win and that belief never faltered in our dugout,’’ GA coach Marty Luquet, who is completing his second summer in charge of the Wombats.
“When we looked at the field after the first day (on Wednesday), you realized the task you were facing and how it was going to be to get out of here. The quality of these opponents were phenomenal.’’
The Louisiana state champions are scheduled to face Northeast Regional champion Braintree, Mass., Post 86 in Game 2 of the Series set for noon CST Thursday. The game is scheduled to be televised by ESPN 3.
Braintree, 27-7, is 9-0 in the postseason having gone 4-0 in the Massachusetts state tournament and then 5-0 in winning the Northeast Regional.
As a conglomeration of the East Ascension, St. Amant, Dutchtown and Ascension Catholic programs, the Wombats do not lack for quality themselves as evidenced Sunday.
Bankert, who normally serves as Gauthier Amedee’s eighth pitching option, limited Bryant to five hits over six scoreless innings before hitting the Black Sox’s leadoff batter in top of the seventh.
Thrash then entered from short and struck out the next three batters to ignite a dog pile celebration in front of the pitcher’s mound.
It was Thrash’ s third save in the tournament and produced Most Outstanding Player honors for the Baton Rouge Community College-bound prospect. Thrash struck out six and walked one while pitching three separate scoreless no-hit innings to close victories against Cape Girardeau, Mo., Post 63, Retif Oil & Fuel and Bryant.
“It was P-Bob time,’’ Thrash shouted referring to the nickname his teammates anointed him with earlier in the summer. “I told Coach Marty before the summer started that we were going to make it to Shelby and I wasn’t going to let him down.’’
“Bankert has been awesome for us all year and Guice has been incredible,’’ Luquet said. “And what can you say about Thrash as a closer? When I went out there (to make the pitching change), he said I’m taking you to Shelby.’’
Babin and Zeppuhar combined to supply the lone run of the championship game in which Bryant starter Will McEntire (7-2) struck out six and walked one while pitching six three-hit innings.
Zeppuhar singled to left to begin the two-out rally in the bottom of the first and Babin followed with a RBI-single to right field. McEntire then held the Wombats to one hit over the final five innings.
Bryant, 46-11, had won nine straight games, including six elimination games in the Arkansas state tournament, before losing consecutive games to Gauthier Amedee.
“It’s awesome knowing that we’re among the top eight Legion teams in the United States,’’ said Babin, who also had a two-run double in the first inning to produce the first two runs in Sunday’s semifinals victory against Tupelo. “The key is our pitching staff. We wouldn’t be able to do this without them.’’
“You get one in the first and then you’ve got to make it hold up, that’s pretty hard to do,’’ Luquet said. “So you have to throw strikes, play defense and trust in your teammates.’’
“Hats off to their pitcher (Bankert),’’ Bryant coach Darren Hurt said. “We just didn’t figure him out. I really thought we would and when we did, I really thought we would get some hits. But our bats went quiet at the wrong time of the season. They’re a great ball club and they’re going to represent (the Mid-South region) well.’’
Guice earned his second victory in as many starts in the tournament, which included five scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory against Cape Girardeau on Wednesday. A future Southeastern Louisiana Lion, Guice (8-1) allowed only two earned runs in 12 complete innings in which he allowed six hits, struck out nine and walked five.
Eight of Gauthier Amedee’s nine batters collected hits against Tupelo, with third baseman William Dunn from Ascension Catholic going 3-for-4 with a two-run single to score the game’s final runs and Dutchtown second baseman Brayden Caskey and Zeppuhar each going 2-for-4. Caskey and Zeppuhar each had a double with Zeppuhar getting a RBI-single in the three-run third.
In addition to Babin’s two-run double, right fielder Carson Dabadie from East Ascension hit a two-run single to close out the scoring in the three-run third.
Right fielder Ty Hill’s no-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the first scored Tupelo’s only runs. From there, Guice (8-1) allowed just three hits while striking out four and walking two in recording the final 27 outs to end the Mississippi state champions’ season at 32-6.
“This is great, it’s unbelievable,’’ Thrash said. “It’s once in a lifetime. We worked too hard not to win it all (in the Mid-South). Like I said the other day, we had won 19 straight earlier in the summer, so we knew we could win four in a row.
“We give up our summer for baseball. I don’t think we do anything else. And it’s not over.’’
Notes: Gauthier Amedee is guaranteed three games in the World Series and the Wombats’ schedule is set. Following Thursday’s opener, GA plays the Mid-Atlantic champion at 3 p.m. Friday in another game televised by ESPN3. Gauthier Amedee’s final game in pool play is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday against the Central Plains champion. That game along with all of those scheduled for the final four days of the tournament are to be televised by ESPNU. Tuesday’s championship game is scheduled for 6 p.m.
AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL
MID-SOUTH REGIONAL TOURNAMENT
(Aug. 8-12 at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium)
Wednesday, Aug. 8
Game 1: Mississippi champion Tupelo Post 49 49ers 7, Tennessee champion Columbia Post 19 0
Game 2: Arkansas champion Bryant Post 298 Black Sox 8, Kansas champion Salina Post 62 3
Game 3: Louisiana champion Gauthier Amedee 2, Missouri runner-up Cape Girardeau Post 63 0
Game 4: Missouri champion Jefferson City Post 5 2, Louisiana runner-up Retif Oil & Fuel (Jesuit) 1
Thursday, Aug. 9
Game 5: Columbia, Tenn., Post 19 9, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Post 63 8 (Cape Girardeau, 31-13, eliminated)
Game 6: Retif Oil & Fuel (Jesuit) 1, Salina, Kan., Post 62 0 (Salina, 35-4, eliminated)
Game 7: Tupelo, Miss., Post 49 2, Gauthier Amedee (East Ascension) 0
Game 8: Bryant, Ark., Post 298 3, Jefferson City, Mo., Post 5 2 (Jefferson City, 25-10, eliminated)
Friday, Aug. 10
Game 9: Gauthier Amedee (East Ascension) 7, Retif Oil & Fuel (Jesuit) 4 (Refif, 23-9-1, eliminated)
Game 10: Columbia, Tenn., Post 19 4, Jefferson City, Mo., Post 5 0 (Jefferson City, 25-11, eliminated)
Game 11: Bryant, Ark., Post 298 2, Tupelo, Miss., Post 49 0
Saturday, Aug. 11
Game 12*: Tupelo, Miss., Post 49 11, Columbia, Tenn., Post 19 7 (Columbia Post 19, 26-8, eliminated)
Game 13*: Gauthier Amedee (East Ascension) 6, Bryant, Ark., Post 298 1
Sunday, Aug. 12
Game 14**: Gauthier Amedee (East Ascension) 7, Tupelo, Miss., Post 49 2 (Tupelo, 32-6, eliminated)
Game 15**: Gauthier Amedee (East Ascension) 1, Bryant, Ark., Post 298 Black Sox 0 (Bryant, 46-11, eliminated)
AMERICAN LEGION WORLD SERIES
Aug. 16-21 at Keeter Stadium, Shelby N.C.