Legion World Series: Post 342 on biggest stage
By Bret Strelow
FARGO, N.D. ó The second-largest sporting goods store in the country sits 1.2 miles from the Holiday Inn where Rowan County’s American Legion baseball team is staying.
The Scheels on 45th Street in Fargo ó surpassed in size only by a sister location in Nevada ó has a 196,000 square-foot shopping area that includes a 45-foot Ferris wheel.
“We probably spent about three hours there, and we really weren’t ready to leave yet,” first baseman Trey Holmes said.
There’s no bigger stage for Holmes and his teammates than the American Legion World Series, and Rowan County (37-8) will begin play in the double-elimination event late tonight against Central Plains Regional champion Festus (39-4) out of Missouri. The first pitch will likely be thrown after 10 p.m. EST at Newman Outdoor Field.Forrest Buchanan (9-0) is the probable starter for Post 342. He pitched Game 3 of the Southeast Regional and allowed one hit in six scoreless innings.
“All he’s got to do is go out and carry a no-hitter and we’ll have a chance,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said with a laugh.
Gantt said he doesn’t want to jeopardize the futures of staff ace Corbin Shive or postseason hero Billy Veal, the top two pitchers in Rowan’s rotation, by using them again on short rest.
In the state and regional settings, Shive worked Game 1 before returning to the mound four days later. He shut down tournament host Sumter (S.C.) on Monday afternoon to help Rowan reach the regional final.
Veal was Rowan’s No. 2 starter in Greenville and Sumter. He closed out championship-clinching wins at both sites.
Gantt said Shive could possibly take the hill Saturday in the second round of the World Series.
“I’m assuming everybody else is in the same boat, but all along we’ve never approached it to where it’s win at all costs,” Gantt said. “I don’t want to get to this and not have our best chance, but I still don’t believe we can run Corbin Shive or Billy Veal out there in Game 1.”
Festus ace Matt Stites, a rising sophomore at Jefferson (Community) College who’s received a scholarship offer from Missouri, has worked on a schedule similar to Shive’s this postseason.
Travis Hayes, another mound option for tonight, filled a regional role that resembled Veal’s. Hayes started Game 2 of the tournament and finished Festus’ second win against Pittsburg (Kan.) on championship Monday.
Pitching depth is a strength for both clubs.
“We’ve heard they’re very strong in all facets, which you have to be to get to this,” Festus coach Pat Bone said. “You don’t get here by luck.”
Rowan reached Fargo in exhausting and nerve-wracking fashion.
The team departed from its Sumter hotel prior to 5 a.m. on Wednesday, flew out of Columbia, S.C., and changed planes in Chicago.
Holmes, Jon Crucitti and Cody Laws were among the players who had never flown before.
“The landing was probably the worst part,” Laws said.
After arriving in Fargo at noon, a bus mix-up forced Rowan to wait on vans that could shuttle the squad to its hotel. The team attended a downtown barbeque and later watched “61*” at a nearby theater. Fargo was Roger Maris’ hometown, and the film chronicles his pursuit of the single-season home run record.
Rowan traveled to Newman Outdoor Field for a team picture at 7:45 a.m. on Thursday and practiced there for about 20 minutes.
“I’ve never played in a park that nice,” catcher Matt Miller said.
Rowan worked out for a longer period on Fargo Post 2’s home field, which was under water for 60 days during the famous Red River floods, and team members found some afternoon time to nap.
A reception with another photo session started at 5:45 p.m., and the World Series banquet followed.
“We almost haven’t had time to enjoy winning the regionals,” Gantt said. “It’ll set in one day.
“We needed to go to sleep because there were some ill people, but it’s worth it because we could be at home.”