ST. GEORGE — The Washington Sentinels American Legion baseball team has advanced to the quarterfinals of the state tournament, thanks to victories over Roy and Pleasant Grove last weekend.
The 16-team, double-elimination tournament continues this week at Kearns High School’s Gates Field. The first two rounds staged on Friday and Saturday were hosted at either Salt Lake Community College’s Taylorsville campus or at Pleasant Grove.
The Sentinels’ roster is made up of current, or recently graduated, players from Hurricane and Pine View high schools. Washington earned a place in the state tournament by finishing the regular season with a 15-10 record, tying them with Roosevelt for first place in their division.
Friday’s opening round game against Roy was a defensive battle, just as Sentinels head coach Shane Johanson had expected it might be.
Neither team scored until the Sentinels drove in two runs in the bottom of the sixth, then held on for a 2-0 victory.
“Those first tournament games are always tough,” Johanson told St. George News. “Everybody’s a little bit anxious. You’re never quite sure what you’re going to get and it’s often a pitching duel. They threw a lefty that day, and he painted the outside corner of the plate the whole time and was just really hard to hit.”
The Sentinels’ scoring sequence in the sixth started with a walk by Brian Long, after which Daniel Elder executed a sacrifice bunt, with Long advancing to third on the play. Max Raddatz then doubled, scoring Long. Two batters later, Raddatz scored on a base hit by Coby Longman.
Luke Bennett, who pitched the first six innings for Washington, picked up the win on the mound, while reliever Jagger Hadley threw the seventh and final inning.
Friday’s win over Roy sent the Sentinels into Saturday’s contest against a familiar opponent, namely Pleasant Grove, playing on their own home turf.
“Of course, we have a lot of history with Pleasant Grove,” Johanson said. “Two years ago, we beat them twice to win the state championship, and then last year, they beat us twice to win the state championship. So, yeah, there was a lot going into that game, emotionally.”
Pleasant Grove got the jump on the Sentinels, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning. However, Washington responded with a five-run rally in the bottom of the first to take a 5-2 lead.
“All the hitting we couldn’t do (the day before), suddenly everybody was hitting the ball and we were able to get guys in and that was pretty fun,” Johanson said.
Washington managed to load up the bases during each of the next two innings, but ended up with just one runner scoring in the third. “We just couldn’t get anybody in,” Johanson said.
Pleasant Grove added another run in the sixth to bring them within three runs, but Sentinels reliever Chase Hadley held the Vikings scoreless in the seventh to preserve the 6-3 victory. Starter Noah Ficklin, who allowed just one earned run and six hits over the first six innings, picked up the pitching win.
Washington’s next game is against Springville at 4 p.m. Monday at Kearns. The winner of that game will play in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday against the winner of Monday’s game between Lone Peak and Mountain Crest. Teams with one loss will have to win their way through the losers’ bracket to advance to Wednesday’s championship game. Should the undefeated team from the winners’ bracket lose Wednesday night, there will be a second “if necessary” championship game Thursday at 4 p.m., also at Kearns.
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