EDWARDSVILLE – Five years ago, Shelby, N.C., was named the permanent site of the American Legion World Series.
So far, the American Legion World Series has been getting big turnouts in the small town just west of Charlotte. Since 2012, fans have purchased more than 100,000 tickets.
This year, the Metro East Bears hope to make the 670-mile trip to North Carolina.
“I haven’t been there,” Bears shortstop Chance Foss said. “I hear it’s a beautiful state and I would like to take a visit.”
The Bears are two wins away from a trip to North Carolina. After getting an 11-7 win over Bay City (Mich.) Post 18 on Saturday in an elimination game of the Great Lakes Regional Tournament at Roy E. Lee Field, Post 199/Post 126 advanced to the championship game against Rockport (Ind.) Post 254 at 1 p.m. Sunday.
A win by the Bears will set up a winner-take-all championship game at 4 p.m. Sunday. The Bears must beat Rockport twice on Sunday to win the regional tournament and advance to the World Series.
“We’re going to give it all we got on the field,” Bears pitcher Brandon Hampton said. “We’ve got 18 innings to win, so we need a lot of pitching tomorrow.”
Rockport advanced to the title game with an 8-4 win over Madison (Wis.) Post 501 on Saturday. Post 254 is 4-0 in the regional tournament.
The American Legion World Series is scheduled for Aug. 11-16 at Keeter Stadium in Shelby N.C.
“It will mean a lot to go to the World Series for this program,” Bears first baseman Cole Hansel said. “We worked all year to get there.”
The Bears improved to 20-7. Before regional tournament play began on Wednesday, Metro East hadn’t played a game since July 16, when it lost to Highland in the District 22 championship.
“I think the two-week (break) kind of helped us get a break on our arms,” Hampton said. “We did live pitching and we practiced well. Now we’re doing it in the games.”
The Bears bounced back nicely from their 12-9 loss to Rockport in a winner’s bracket game on Friday. Metro East beat Pickerington (Ohio) Post 238 and Beloit (Wis.) Post 48 in its first two games of the tournament before losing to the Indiana squad.
“It’s a big win for us,” Bears right fielder Cole Cimarolli said.
Bay City finished its season at 41-3. The Michigan team was 2-2 in the regional tournament.
“Anytime you beat a good team like that, it’s just great,” Cimarolli said. “It’s a big confidence booster.”
Last week, Bay City advanced to regionals by winning its first state championship since 1962.
“We started the Bay City legion back up last year,” said Bay City right fielder/pitcher Monte Petre, who suffered the loss on the mound. “Our goal was to get to the World Series both years and we had good runs both years.”
Bay City defeated Midland Berryhill 4-2 in the state championship game. Last year, Berryhill beat the Bears in the regional championship game at Gordon Moore Park in Alton.
On Saturday, the Bears made sure that a Michigan team wasn’t going to end their season for the second straight year. With the game tied at 5-5, Metro East scored six runs in the top of the seventh to take an 11-5 lead.
“It feels good knowing that we get to come back tomorrow and play hopefully two more games to try to get to North Carolina,” Hansel said. “The team as a whole didn’t give up today. We knew that we were coming in and we were ready to play and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
The Bears took a 5-0 lead by scoring four in the third and one in the fourth. But Bay City rallied to tie it at 5-5 after scoring four in the bottom of the fourth and one in the fifth.
With the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the seventh, Bears second baseman Mitchell Krebs broke the 5-5 tie with a two-run single.
The Bears increased their lead to 8-5 after third baseman Drake Hampton stole home. Metro East later got an RBI double by Hansel and a two-run single by center fielder Collin Clayton.
“Everybody stepped up with their bats and kept fighting through it,” said Hansel, who finished with two doubles. “Even when they were down, they didn’t give up on their bats.”
Clayton was 2 for 4 with two runs scored and four RBIs and earned the game ball. He’s now hitting .411 with eight RBIs in the tournament.
Catcher Steven Pattan is hitting a team-best .733 after getting a hit on Saturday. That hit was a one-out, RBI single in the top of the third that gave the Bears a 1-0 lead and started a four-run rally.
With his two hits on Saturday, Drake Hampton is hitting .444 with a home run and nine RBIs in the tournament.
Storm Coffman earned the victory on the mound and is now 2-0 in the tournament. He came in the relief for starting pitcher Brandon Hampton in the bottom of the fourth and gave up three earned runs on six hits and struck out two in four innings of work.
Coffman was the winning pitcher in the Bears’ 7-5 win over Beloit (Wis.) Post 48 on Thursday.
Devin Colley pitched the final two innings and gave up no runs on three hits.
“Devin throws great,” Foss said. “He’s a good reliever for us. We have a lot of confidence in him.”
Hansel said he’s thrilled that his team is getting to play in the regional tournament in front of its home fans.
“It definitely helps for us to sleep in our own beds,” Hansel said. “(Metro East) Coach (Ken) Schaake said all of the other coaches said the only reason that we were in this is because we’re the host team, but we came out and showed everybody that we deserved to be in this tournament and we’re here to play.”
GREAT LAKES REGIONAL
METRO EAST BEARS 11, BAY CITY 7
Metro East 004 100 600 – 11 10 1
Bay City 000 410 200 – 7 15 2
Metro East (20-7) – Cole Cimarolli 1-3 3 BB, Collin Clayton 2-4 BB 4 RBIs, Jake Garella 0-3 BB RBI, Drake Hampton 2-4 BB, Mitchell Krebs 2-5 3 RBIs, Tyler Stamer 0-3 BB, Chance Foss 0-3 2 BBs, Cole Hansel 2-4 2 2Bs, Steven Pattan 1-3 RBI 2 BBs
WP – Storm Coffman 4.0 IP, 6H, 3R, 3R, 0BB, 2K
Brandon Hampton 3.0 IP, 6H, 4R, 4ER, 3BB, 1K
Devin Coffey 2.0 IP, 3H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 1K
Bay City (41-3) – Christian Petre 2-5 RBI, Jaret Koin 2-5 RBI, Austin Koin 0-5, Mason Erla 2-5, Brady Wood 1-4 BB, Tyler Wiechec 0-1, Aaron Rodriguez 2-2 BB, Sean O’Keefe 2-4 RBI BB, Cheyne Maier 2-5 2 RBIs, Monte Petre 2-5 RBI
LP – Monte Petre 3.1 IP 2H 6R 6ER 6BB 2K
Ethan Lesperance 3.0 IP 6H 5R 5ER 2BB 1K
Jaret Koin 1.2IP 2H 0R 0ER 1BB 0K
Christian Petre 1.0IP 0H 0R 0ER 2BB 0K