It was all about redemption.
Las Vegas No. 9 hitter Alex Estrella took it upon himself to assure he wouldn’t be the losing pitcher in Friday’s first game of the 2010 American Legion World Series.
And third baseman Connor Klein atoned for his mistake with a clutch home run that ignited the Lions’ comeback.
Estrella was trailing 5-1 when he departed the mound for right field after pitching six innings. In the eighth, he looped a two-run single – his third base hit of the day – to cap a stunning comeback and 6-5 victory over Kernersville, N.C.
With the win, Las Vegas (47-15) plays today at 5 p.m. in the winners’ bracket of the national championship tournament at Avista Stadium. Kernersville (31-16) plays at 10 a.m. in a loser-out game.
What his arm couldn’t accomplish, Estrella’s bat did when things were looking bleak.
“I saved myself through being the guy up to the plate,” Estrella said. “I was happy to be up there, was smiling and telling myself to relax.”
Klein, whose older brother Brooks is batting .490 and is the home run leader of the team, got things started with his two-run homer in the sixth inning over the low right-field fence at Avista. It was the first home run of his American Legion season, Connor Klein said.
His brother played this spring at Western Nevada Community College, but still fit the age requirement for another Legion season and, in relief, got Friday’s win.
“I’m definitely in the shadows,” said Connor Klein, soon to be a high school junior. “We were down by four runs and I’d just made an error in the field to give them a run. It was nice to get them back.”
His dropped a third-out foul popup that gave Kernersville’s Alex Swim a second chance, resulting in an RBI double for his team’s fifth run.
Kernersville scored solo runs in the first four innings, but squandered a golden opportunity in the fifth following Landon Odell’s leadoff triple.
Las Vegas had an unearned run in the seventh before Estrella delivered the winning runs with two outs in the eight after Blair Goldsack was hit by a pitch. Goldsack got the save and had two assists during the 1-2-3 ninth inning.
“It wasn’t pretty,” manager Levi Gill said. “We didn’t hit the ball on the nose very often, but we got the win.”