SHELBY, N.C. — In a game with plenty of opportunities for both teams, it was Fargo Post 2 which capitalized in a 4-1 victory over Randolph County (N.C.) Post 45 on Saturday in the American Legion World Series. The win is the first for Post 2 at the American Legion World Series since 1992.
After Post 2 lost its first game of pool play, Saturday's win also kept hope of a trip to the semifinals alive.
"I thought we were just back to business as usual," Post 2 head coach Luke Rustad said. "The last game was not business as usual. This one our vibe was good, and just the way we got started in the game and working out of some jams and the way Cole Hage got us going, it was just good from the entire atmosphere in the dugout. It was a totally different day."
Post 2 will enter the final day of pool play with a 1-1 record in its pool, tied with Post 45. Idaho is 2-0 and Massachusetts is 0-2. Post 2 would advance to the semifinals with a win over Massachusetts paired with an Idaho win over Post 45 on Sunday.
If Post 2 and Post 45 have the same outcome on Sunday, things get tricky. That would either have three teams tied at 2-1 or three teams tied at 1-2 in pool play. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head, but that would result with the three teams all being 1-1 against one another. The next tiebreaker is runs allowed. Idaho has given up three runs, Post 2 and Post 45 have both given up eight runs and Massachusetts has given up 12.
The third tiebreaker is most runs scored overall and the fourth tiebreaker is a coin flip.
"Every inning is big," Rustad said. "Everything is huge. Every pitch, every play is big. It could all be the difference."
It only took three batters for Fargo to make an impact in the top of the first inning Saturday. After a single and an out, Cole Hage hit a two-run blast to dead center to put Fargo up early.
The first two batters for Post 45 reached with singles in the bottom of the frame, setting up a first-and-third situation with no outs. A fly ball to shallow left field ensued and the runner strayed a bit too far off of third on a fake tag-up attempt. Third baseman Drew Sandy cut off the throw home by Zach Sandy and flipped to shortstop Zach Kluvers covering third base to put down the tag.
That was a crucial out to slow down Post 45, as the Mid-Atlantic champions took advantage of an interference call and a double by Colby Hammer to score Trevor Marsh and cut the lead in half.
Post 45 loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the second, after a walk, single and a hit by pitch, but Post 2 pitcher Taylor Parrett got a strikeout and a flyout to get out of trouble with the lead.
Fargo took advantage in the fourth with walks to Brandt Kolpack and Drew Sandy, both of whom came around to score on a Zach Sandy single.
"We were locked in and focused and it was great to rebound,” Zach Sandy said.
Post 45 got a one-out walk and a single to left in the bottom of the fourth, but once again aggressive base running was costly, as Zach Sandy hit Drew Sandy and the latter won a race to the third-base bag to catch a runner trying to go first to third, holding off the threat.
“They hit out to me and my job was just to hit the cutoff man and on both plays I just hit the cut and we got two big outs,” Zach Sandy said.
Post 45 put two in scoring position in the fifth, but Parrett got a huge strikeout to end the frame and his day. He finished with just the lone run allowed after scattering six hits over his five innings.
Austin Manuel, who came on in relief for Parrett, set Post 45 down quietly in the sixth and seventh, allowing just one runner to finish off his save.
"We got enough pitching to get through this and get to Monday," Rustad said. "It feels great. It feels like I got my team back."
The game was played as part of USAA Military Appreciation Day. Prior to the game, Medal of Honor recipient Hal Fritz addressed the crowd and met with the teams.
“It was really cool to hear the stories of what he did and it gave me goosebumps,” Zach Sandy continued. “The stories were humbling, and I think it motivated some of us. It is great to see all of the veterans come out and support.”
Post 2 will play Massachusetts at 3 p.m. (CST) Sunday. Post 45 will play Idaho at 6 p.m. (CST) Sunday. All games are on ESPNU.
"Massachusetts hasn't won yet, but I've watched them play and they're a good team," Rustad said. "They're going to be hungry. No one wants to leave here without a win."