Batting last in the order, Eden Prairie right fielder David Belusky provided heroics with a pair of doubles that helped bring the Minnesota team from behind and to within a win of the American Legion World Series championship game.
Trailing the Las Vegas Lions 4-1 after five innings, the Minnesota team clawed its way back into the game late Sunday night to defeat the Lions 6-4.
Belusky doubled and scored in the seventh and doubled again to tie the game in the ninth.
That left it to No. 3 batter Tony Skjeft to provide the winning swing with a two-out, two-run single – his third base hit of the night.
By a quirk of Legion tournament bracketing, although it is the tourney’s only remaining unbeaten team, Eden Prairie is obligated to play at least two more times, beginning tonight against Roseburg, Ore., at 7.
Unlike a typical double-elimination tournament, the game truly matters only to Roseburg, which must win to stay alive.
Today’s other game pits Midwest City, Okla., against Las Vegas. The winner stays alive, and the loser is out.
Eden Prairie (38-7) fell behind during a confusing second inning that staked Las Vegas (48-16) to a 3-1 lead.
During the frame, a valiant effort to catch a low line drive to right field was ruled unsecured, driving in one run. Then came an obstruction call on a pickoff play that produced a second run.
“(The umpire) said he caught the ball and somewhere lost it in the transfer,” Eden Prairie coach Scott Hackett said about the outfield call. As for the obstruction call, “it was an unfortunate series of events. But this is testament to the kids battling.”
Las Vegas banged out seven hits in the first three innings to build a 4-1 lead. Included were three doubles and a triple.
Then Eden Prairie scratched its way back into the contest with solo runs in the sixth and seventh innings. The first was abetted by an errant pickoff attempt at second base, putting two runners in scoring position. A run came home on a sacrifice fly.
The second came following Belusky’s first double. In the ninth, pinch hitter Lance Thonvold doubled down the first-base line. Following a sacrifice Belusky came up big again.
“People always underestimate me,” he said. “Batting in the No. 9 spot I see a lot of fastballs.”
Three batters later Skjefte delivered.
“I jumped on the first pitch (a fastball),” he said. “I just decided, why not do it?”
Las Vegas submariner Blair Goldsack kept Eden Prairie off balance for much of the game.
But the Lions managed just one hit and were scoreless against Eden Prairie pitchers the final six innings.
Vince Ampi’s three-run homer was the highlight of Roseburg’s six-run fifth-inning that produced yet another come-from-behind win for the Docs (35-14).
Moline (42-9) was leading 5-1 when Roseburg put together its big comeback, which also included RBI singles by Cameron Newell and Austin Stone.
The Docs, who advanced despite committing five more errors, also got some splendid relief pitching from Dakota Cavens, who came on in relief of starter Jared Priestly with one out in the sixth and the scored tied at 7.
Cravens retired all 11 batters he faced to earn the win.
Midwest City 6, Kernersville 1
The victors from Midwest City (63-10) rode the arm and bat of pitcher-No. 4 hitter Dalton Bernardi.
He kept Kernersville (32-16) batters off-balance with location and change of speed, scattering nine hits, striking out 11 and walking two. Bernardi also had two hits, including an RBI triple and scored one run. Leadoff batter Josh Halbert was 3 for 5 and scored twice from the leadoff position.
Leading 2-1, the Outlaws put the game away with two runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth.