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American Legion rolls to junior league championship in 12-1 win

League champ set to enter district tourney in Mildred
American Legion was the heavy favorite to win the junior league title this season and the boys in blue didn’t disappoint.
On Wednesday night, American Legion (AL) closed out its series with Southwest Funding (SF) by way of a convincing 12-1 victory. AL (14-1-1) exploded for a nine-run seventh inning, as they out-hit SF (11-4-1) 12-0 and committed fewer errors (3-1). SF had a great shot through the first six innings to extend the series.
“This is the third year in a row to win the championship with most of these kids and it’s been fun,” said AL coach Tony Wilhoite.
“Everybody expected us to win and when they had to, the guys always turned it on. They’re good ballplayers.”
Trevor Wilhoite had a monster game for AL with a grand slam, a double and a single. Other AL players with multi-hit games included Nathan Dixon (RBI double, single), Andrew Brown (double, single, RBI) and Ryan Dodson (RBI single, single). Hector Garcia (RBI double, RBI), Chace Durham (RBI single, RBI) and Joel Watson (single) all found some success as well.
Dixon (7 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 5 W, 15 SO) was nearly perfect outside of one trying inning on the mound.
SF pitcher Lin Gentry (7 IP, 5 ER, 12 H, 6 W, 8 SO) gave his team every chance to win through the first six innings and battled until the very end.
“Lin did a great job keeping us off balance most of the way,” Wilhoite said.
“I probably should’ve pulled Lin and he got a little tired at the end,” said SF coach Roger Gentry.
“Two of our regular starters weren’t here and that hurt our pitching depth, but after [AL] scored several in the seventh I decided to let Lin finish. [AL] is tough to score against with their pitching, especially Dixon, but we didn’t lay down.”
The game was undoubtedly a pitcher’s duel most of the evening. Gentry struck out a couple of batters in the first and made an amazing barehanded grab of a hard liner back up the middle. Dixon fanned a batter in the SF first while second baseman Dylan Macon hauled in a couple of grounders.
“Lin is so competitive that he didn’t hesitate to go after that ball barehanded,” the SF coach said.
“I’m just glad it wasn’t hit any harder or we might be picking his fingers up right now.”
“Dylan moved to second base this year and he gets a lot of action over there making all the routine plays,” Wilhoite said.
“His bat has also helped us this season.”
Brown legged out an infield single in the AL second, but Gentry struck out the other three batters while Dixon struck out the side when he took the field.
“Andrew has come a long way with the bat thanks to high school ball and he’s carried it over to this league,” Wilhoite said.
“He gives you everything he’s got all the time.”
“Lin had good movement on the ball and good location,” Gentry said.
Wilhoite singled to right field in the top of the third and two runs soon came home when an error was committed on Dixon’s RBI grounder. Catcher Scott Falkenbach did throw out a baserunner with the help of shortstop Nick Cromwell while center fielder Trevor Goehring ran down a deep fly ball.
“Trevor did very well for us in center, as did Travis [Miller] at third base,” Gentry said.
Dixon fanned a couple in the SF third and Gentry came back strong in the fourth with a strikeout and a pair of fielded groundouts. Catcher Durham threw out a baserunner in the SF fourth while Macon fielded another groundout to preserve the 2-0 advantage.
“Chace is a solid catcher and he works great with Nathan,” Wilhoite said.
“He keeps the ball in front of him and not many people try to run on him.”
Though Dixon singled in the top of the fifth, Gentry got out of trouble by striking out two while second baseman Jake McGuire fielded a groundout. Dixon encountered his most adversity by far in the SF fifth when he walked four batters and Goehring scored on a wild pitch. A bases-loaded strikeout ensured the visitors would remain in front.
“Nathan knew I needed him to get that strikeout and he beared down to make it happen,” Wilhoite said.
“He’s a pitcher, not a thrower. Usually if we give Nathan a few runs, that’s the ballgame.”
AE pushed the score to 3-1 in its sixth as Garcia followed a Brown double with a ground-rule RBI double to right field. SF was able to escape from there as Cromwell made a couple of outs with his glove and then assisted Falkenbach on gunning down another baserunner.
“Hector will be one of the leaders of this team next year and he’s a really good ballplayer,” Wilhoite said.
“All of our young guys have done a great job of patiently waiting for their chance to play and then contributing when they come in. I feel good about every one of them.”
“Scott had caught one game this season before tonight and he stepped up to make sure we were better off with him back there,” Gentry said.
“He did a wonderful job.”
Dixon struck out the side in the sixth and then the AL offense erupted in the seventh. The first time through the order, Dodson (single), Wilhoite (double), Dixon (RBI double), Durham (RBI single), Watson (single), Brown (RBI) and Garcia (RBI) all helped build on the lead.
The second time around, Dodson hit an RBI single and then Wilhoite finished off his big night with a grand slam to center field to finalize the score. SF did get a third runner out on the bases as left fielder Josh Doyle fired a throw to Cromwell for the tag at third base.
“Trevor has hit well this year and I’ve counted on him to get us going in the top of the lineup,” the AL coach said.
“When he gets on, good things happen for us. Nathan is a contact hitter and he always finds holes. In the regular season, he and Trevor were only put out back-to-back in the same inning one time.”
Just as he’d done in the sixth, Dixon struck out the side in the seventh to clinch the city championship. Both teams will now head to the district tournament in Mildred on July 14.
“I’m so proud of the team because we were supposed to be in a dogfight with four other teams for second place entering the season and we took second going away,” Gentry said.
“We’ll have to play a full ballgame at district, which is something we haven’t done all year,” Wilhoite said.
“You can’t just expect to turn in on at that level.”

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Posted by on Jun 26 2008. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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