SHELBY, N.C. — Looking for a win to help secure a spot in the semifinals of the American Legion World Series, Mother Nature had different plans on Saturday night at Keeter Stadium.
Just after Creighton Prep, Nebraska, scored three runs to take a 3-1 lead in the top of the ninth, the skies opened, and 30 minutes later, the game was suspended to a persistent rain and wet field conditions. The game will resume at 11 a.m. Sunday morning, with Shrewsbury coming to bat in the bottom of the fifth inning trailing by two runs.
Post 397 starter Pat Shaughnessy was in trouble for most of the evening, but he kept a potent Nebraska offense that had scored 15 runs in their first two games scoreless through the first four innings by stranding nine runners.
In the first, a walk and hit ultimately resulted in both runners reaching scoring position with no outs. Shaughnessy kept battling however, getting pair of popouts to third base before inducing a groundout to second to end the early threat.
Shrewsbury also put two runners on in the first, getting a David Turco double and a Jack Gardner walk. Nebraska starter Max Mandel got Pat Galvin to ground out to first however to keep Post 397 off the board.
Shaughnessy worked out of more trouble in the third, getting nice defensive plays from Dillon Zona at first and Adam Twitchell in center after Nebraska loaded the bases with just one out.
In the third inning, Post 397 broke through against Mandel. With one out, Twitchell reached via an infield single, and moved to second after Turco drew a walk. After both runners moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch, Nick Martin singled up the middle, plating Twitchell, to give Post 397 a 1-0 lead.
Shaughnessy again worked out of a major jam in the fourth, hitting a batter and walking two to load the bases with two out. Zach Luckey then ripped a deep ball to left, which just went foul. Shaughnessy was unfazed, however, getting Luckey to pop to short on the next pitch.
In the fifth inning, Shaughnessy got the first out, and it looked as though he would have the second after making a nice play off the mound on a ball hit up the first base line. His throw was wide of the bag, however, and after walking the next batter, Shaughnessy was replaced by Dylan Degon.
After a wild pitch allowed both runners to move into scoring position, Nate Reiner ripped a double to deep left to put Nebraska on top, 2-1. Later in the inning, Evan Laney’s sacrifice fly made it 3-1 Nebraska. After Degon got Cam Blossom to line out to end the inning, the tarp was brought out, and the rain started shortly thereafter.
Tough loss Friday
Shrewsbury Post 397 hadn’t been shut out all season — all it took for that to happen was facing a pitcher who recently committed to play for NCAA Division 1 powerhouse Long Beach State University.
Nevada’s Shane Spencer fired a one-hitter, and his teammates finally got him a run on a walk-off, sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh inning, as Western Regional champ Henderson Post 40 edged Shrewsbury, 1-0, in continuing pool play late Friday night.
Then again, perhaps Post 397 could have avoided being shut out had the game been played its originally slated nine innings. However, with stormy weather here Friday and more expected for the weekend, ALWS officials decided to make the tournament's remaining games seven innings.
A win likely would have guaranteed Shrewsbury (35-7) a spot in Monday’s semifinals. Now, with both a win and a loss in the World Series, Post 397 likely needs to win Sunday morning to keep its season alive.
Even with a win, Post 397’s semifinal fate could come down to a tiebreaker.
Shrewsbury manager Frank Vaccaro said he thought Spencer got stronger as the game progressed.
“I thought early we were on him,” Vaccaro said. “I thought we were hitting the ball, and they were making plays.”
Post 397 managed just four base runners, getting its only hit in the sixth inning on a Thomas Cue single to center with two down.
“He’s a good pitcher obviously,” Vaccaro said. “He was throwing well.”
Meanwhile, Shrewsbury starter Kevin Hummer was just as strong, if not better, matching Spencer pitch-for-pitch into the seventh inning.
Hummer was dominant against the potent Nevada lineup, allowing just one run on just four hits, while striking out five.
In the fateful seventh, Nevada's Ryne Nelson led off with a double to the right field gap. Slugger Jack Thomas Wold was intentionally walked and Jesse Fonteboa singled to center to load the bases. Garrett Giles followed with a deep flyout to deep center, allowing the winner to easily score.
“We didn’t do the job offensively tonight,” Vaccaro said. “(Hummer) wants the ball. He wanted the ball from the beginning. I knew he was going to pitch a good game. I expect these games to be close, and unfortunately we were on the short side of it. Hummer pitched a gem.
“We’re going to come out for the opening bell. I’m sure they’re angry right now and upset. A loss is tough to take when they come this far. I think that they’ll be ready to play.”
Post 397 has been on the brink of elimination before, fighting its way out of the elimination bracket in the regional tournament to punch its ticket here.
“I’m looking for a good baseball game,” Vaccaro added. “We came here to make a good showing. It’s not over yet. Tomorrow is another day, and we’ll go for it.”
—Contact Chris Kyne at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @tgsports.