They arrived in Spokane a week ago today carrying their gloves, wearing polo shirts and black dress slacks, as they exited the plane.
The Oklahoma Outlaws of Midwest City, Okla., meant business at the American Legion World Series. It was never more evident than Tuesday when the Oklahoma state champions swept the Minnesota state champions of Eden Prairie.
The Outlaws executed the fundamentals, they put the game in motion, they didn’t beat themselves.
It all added up to an American Legion World Series championship in 11-6 and 10-1 victories before an estimated crowd of 600 at Avista Stadium.
The sweep by the Outlaws marked the first time since 1985 in an ALWS final that the team out of the loser’s bracket won two on the final day to clinch the title.
“We came out here on business only,” Dalton Bernardi said of carrying their gloves off the plane, “and (we had our gloves with us) in case they lost our luggage so we could still play.”
Bernardi, a right fielder and pitcher, was named the tournament’s most valuable player. He pitched the final 2 1/3 innings in relief, allowing just one hit and striking out Eden Prairie in order in the ninth.
“I couldn’t have done it without these guys,” Bernardi said. “This is awesome. With these guys, they’re my family. I love them to death.”
Since both teams in the ALWS final had to go to the if necessary game at their respective qualifying regional tournaments to advance to Spokane, it stands to reason the extra game was required Tuesday.
The Outlaws avenged a 9-6 loss to EP on Saturday and to starting pitcher Caleb Phillips, who started the final game.
Greg Nelson got Oklahoma out fast in the nightcap with a two-run homer in the first. The Outlaws didn’t let up.
Bernardi had no doubt his team was going to come through despite having its back against the wall.
“Outlaws like to do it the hard way,” said Bernardi, who was the last player up from the end-of-game dog pile and celebration. “All the time, that’s how we do it. We felt we were going to get two wins. There was no doubt in our minds we were going to win this whole thing.”
The Outlaws lost their top player, J.T. Realmuto, following their regional title win when he signed a contract with the Florida Marlins. He was a third round draft pick in June.
“The neat thing about is we lose J.T. – and he was the leader for us in every aspect of the game,” Outlaws coach Doug Weese said. “He was our closer and in two years he had only given up one earned run. The kids said we’re going to win it anyway coach. We never lost that faith even without him.”
[bullet]In the first game, Outlaws left-handed pitcher Chris Mullins (16-1), who suffered his first loss to EP, bounced back to keep Midwest City alive. He went 5 1/3 innings, limited EP to six hits and three runs.
Two big innings were the difference for the Outlaws. In the second, Josh Halbert had a run-scoring single and Nelson had a sacrifice fly.
Oklahoma extended its lead to 10-3 in the seventh when the Outlaws scored five runs. With two outs, EP coach Scott Hackett brought in relief pitcher Tyler Ruemmele, who promptly allowed an RBI single on his first pitch to No. 9 hitter Caleb Price and a three-run homer on the next pitch to Halbert.
EP pulled within 10-5 in the eighth but couldn’t edge any closer.
Halbert was 2 for 4 with four RBI. Blake Schmit led EP, going 1-2 with two RBIs.
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