Say this for Mason Zeringue, Gauthier Amedee’s leading hitter knows how to make an entrance.
Having been sidelined for a month by sprained knee ligaments, the Ascension Catholic center fielder made his first appearance in the American Legion Baseball Mid-South Regional on Friday.
Pinch hitting in the bottom of the sixth inning with his team’s season on the line, Zeringue lined a two-run single down the left line to propel the Louisiana champions to a 7-4 victory against Retif Oil & Fuel at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium.
Zeringue’s pinch hit produced a 5-4 lead and came in his first competitive appearance since spraining a knee while sliding into home plate against Retif during the Wombats run through the state tournament.
“My knee is still not where I want it to be, but I want to play,’’ said Zeringue, who was batting .478 with 34 RBIs and 32 runs scored before his injury. “I came into this tournament knowing I would be limited. So I knew when I got my shot I had to be ready. I had to come through for my team.’’
And deliver Zeringue did to help Gauthier Amedee (38-6) improve to 4-1 against Retif this summer and advance into another elimination game Saturday against the reigning Mid-South champion Bryant, Arkansas, Post 298 Black Sox.
First pitch is scheduled for 35 minutes after the conclusion of Saturday’s 10 a.m. opener, an elimination game, between Tupelo, Mississippi, Post 49 and Columbia, Tennessee, Post 19.
“Mason has been waiting to get an opportunity,’’ Wombats coach Marty Luquet said. “He’s not 100 percent, and we have been waiting for the right situation to use him, and that was it. It was a (nine) pitch at-bat and he lines it down the line. That’s what you expect from one of your best players.’’
Zane Zeppuhar’s one-out single scored second baseman Brayden Caskey with Gauthier Amedee’s first run of the sixth to trim the deficit to 4-3. Jack Merrifield and Carson Dabadie then followed with singles to load the bases for Zeringue.
The Wombats’ final two runs scored via Reid Bouchereau’s sacrifice bunt and a pinch-hit RBI-double by Reed Babin.
Right-hander Chad Kennedy (5-0) earned the victory with two solid innings of relief sandwiched around a two-plus hour weather delay that preceded Gauthier Amedee’s five-run rally.
Kennedy was the third of four pitchers used by the Wombats, who moved Preston Thrash from shortstop to the mound in the seventh to close the Wombats’ second victory in three tournament games.
“The game never is over till it’s over,’’ Thrash said. “I knew we were going to come back. We’ve played them five times, and we scored at least five runs each time. I knew we would score more than three runs.’’
Retif (23-9-1) led 3-0 on Parker Serio’s three-run homer before a two-hour weather delay forced a pitching change. That delay preceded the five-run sixth that ended the Jesuit-based program’s second straight Mid-South Regional appearance.
Retif exited 1-2 after losing 2-1 to Jefferson City, Missouri, and defeating Salina, Kansas, 1-0, in its first two games. Retif was making its fourth Mid-South appearance in five years.
“I liked the effort,’’ Retif coach Kenny Goodlett said. “We played three state champions. We know this tournament is going to have good quality teams and that’s what you get in the Mid-South Regional. I can’t take anything away from our effort. We just came up short.’’
Gauthier Amedee answered Retif’s three-run third with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. A sacrifice fly by Thrash and William Dunn’s two-out single drove in the runs.
The Wombats now need three more victories to advance to their fourth American Legion World Series scheduled to begin Thursday in Shelby, North Carolina.
“I like our chances,’’ Zeringue said. “We’ve got a team that’s built to deal with adversity, and we’ve handled it all summer. It’s just great to play ball at this level. It makes you better. Everything is great about this.’’
“We’ve won 19 in a row before (earlier this summer),’’ Thrash said. “All we’ve got to do is win three in a row. But we’ve got to play our best ball so we can move on.’’
BRYANT, ARK. 2, TUPELO, MISS. 0: Right-hander William Grant pitched a two-hitter while striking out four and walking four to lead the reigning Mid-South champions to victory in the winners bracket final.
Myers Buck and Cade Drennan each had two-out RBI singles in the top of the first and third innings to account for the game’s only runs.
Arkansas champion Bryant Post 298 (46-9) won its ninth straight outing to earn a berth in Sunday’s championship game. The Black Sox’s previous six wins were in elimination games in the Arkansas state tournament.
Mississippi champion Tupelo Post 49 (31-5) had a nine-game winning streak broken in falling into a 10 a.m. Saturday elimination game pairing against Columbia, Tennessee Post 19 (26-7).
COLUMBIA, TENN. 4, JEFFERSON CITY, MO. 0: Right-hander Ethan Mealer struck out 10 and walked one in pitching a five-hit shutout to propel the Tennessee state champions to an elimination game victory against the Missouri state champions.
Mealer (3-0) was backed by a seven-hit attack that included a two-run double by Nathan Massey and RBI singles by Will McCall and Cole Flatt.
Columbia Post 19 (26-7) improved to 2-1 in the tournament and now faces Tupelo, Miss., Post 49 on Saturday.
Jefferson City, Missouri, Post 5 (25-11) exited its second consecutive Mid-South Regional appearance with a second straight 2-1 record.
AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL
MID-SOUTH REGIONAL TOURNAMENT
At Kirsch-Rooney Stadium
Game 9: Gauthier Amedee 7, Retif Oil & Fuel 4 (Retif, eliminated)
Game 10: Columbia, Tenn. 4, Jefferson City, Mo. 0 (Jefferson City, eliminated)
Game 11: Bryant, Ark. 2, Tupelo, Miss. 0
Game 12*: Gauthier Amedee vs. Bryant, Ark., 10 a.m.
Game 13*: Columbia Post, Tenn. vs. Tupelo, Miss., 35 minutes after Game 12.
Note: Bryant, Ark. is automatically in the championship game because it was the only unbeaten team going into Saturday's action.
Game 14**: Game 12 winner vs. Game 13 winner, 11 a.m.
Game 15**: Fifteen games will be necessary if Game 11 winner loses Game 13 or Game 12 winner wins Game 14. First pitch is 35 minutes after conclusion of Game 14.
Note: *Pairings for Games 12 and 13 will not match previous opponents unless absolutely necessary.
**If three teams remain after Game 13, the winner of Game 11 automatically draws the bye into Game 14.
AMERICAN LEGION WORLD SERIES
Aug. 16-21 at Keeter Stadium, Shelby North Carolina.