SHELBY, N.C. — In 2012, Jonathan Hess pitched critical innings during the American Legion World Series to help Jesuit-based Retif Oil win the championship.
Because school had already begun back at home, Hess’s little brother Ben couldn’t attend the games 45 miles west of Charlotte, N.C.
On Friday, Ben got his turn.
Ben Hess, who watched every inning of his big brother’s title run from home three years ago, sparked Retif Oil past Cromwell, Connecticut, 2-1 in the team’s 2015 World Series debut.
Hess opened the scoring when he led off the top of the fourth inning with a double and scored on catcher Hayden Fuentes’ two- out, two-strike double to right center field. Hess knocked in the game-winning run on an RBI single over a drawn in infield scoring Harrison Daste in the seventh inning. However, his biggest contributions came on defense.
Cromwell, which lost to Midland, Michigan, 12-1 on Thursday, had a runner at second with two outs in the fourth when Hess came flying in from right field and made a head first diving catch as he tumbled into foul territory. That was just a prelude to the biggest play of the afternoon.
In the fifth inning, with Retif continuing to nurse a one-run lead, Cromwell had two on with two outs when Cory Baldwin, the team’s RBI leader during the tournament, lined a single to right. Hess charged, fielded and fired home. The throw was just up the third base line. Retief catcher Trent Forshag caught the throw and in one motion swiped a tag in the direction of the runner. Nick Queiroz tried to avoid the tag sliding to the outside of home plate, but umpire Matt Sullivan said that Forshag brushed Queiroz to end the threat.
“I knew the runner was on second base when the ball was hit, so I just threw as hard as I could and hoped for the best,” said Hess. “It didn’t look like he was out from where I was standing, but the umpire called him out, so he must have been.”
Retif Oil coach Joey Latino was not surprised that Hess came up big.
“He’s been like that all summer,” said Latino. “He had an unbelievable Mid-South tournament. Defensivel, he’s probably our best outfielder, he certainly has the best arm. That’s something he can do day in and day out.”
As for the play at the plate, Latino knows that sometimes you have to get breaks.
“I don’t know if he was out, and I was afraid to ask my catcher,” Latino said. “But I trust the umpire, and he made the out call so we’re going to go with that. It was a huge call, a momentum-turner. In a game like this where runs are at a premium, that could be huge. We could be going into extra innings.”
Cromwell scored its only run in the seventh inning. After six shutout innings, Retif starter Mason Mayfield allowed a leadoff double to Leo Thomas, and two ground ball outs scored the run. Mayfield yielded five hits and one run while striking out three in seven innings. Reliever David Boh retired the side in order in the eighth and ninth innings to earn the save.
Retif Oil will play Chapin/Newberry, South Carolina, at 3 p.m. Saturday and Midland at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. A win in either game likely will secure a berth in the semifinals Monday.