By Keith Cannon/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
SHELBY, N.C. – When Saturday night’s late game in the American Legion World Series turned into Sunday morning’s early game, the Tupelo 49ers were disappointed.
“We were wound up and ready to play,” said Tupelo shortstop Channing Nanney. “We had to go back and find a way to wind down and get ready to play the game today.”
But the Post 49 team handled the postponement – due to a Legion rule that prohibits starting a game after 11 p.m. local time – just fine, adjusting for a big 3-1 second-round victory over local favorite Gaffney, S.C. at Floyd Keeter Stadium.
Nanney drove in all three Tupelo runs with a bases-clearing double in the seventh inning and right-hander Tanner Gaines pitched a complete game four-hitter, striking out eight. The victory sent Tupelo (31-9) to the next round, and they were schedule to play Midland, Mich., on Sunday night.
“I’m proud of our team,” coach Kirk Presley said, “We have experienced players and they showed their maturity. They came ready to play today after not getting to last night.”
A pair of three-hour games plus a rain delay of nearly two hours between Game 2 and Game 3 pushed the tournament schedule into the late night again on Saturday.
And when the game finally got started at 10 a.m. local time on Sunday, it seemed like the hitters were still catching up to the adjusted schedule.
Both Gaines (1-0 in the playoffs) and South Carolina starter Colby Painter were effective early, and the matchup between the two best-hitting teams in the American Legion playoffs produced a scoreless tie and only four hits combined through five innings.
Gaffney (32-4) produced the first scoring threat of the game in the sixth, loading the bases on a single and a pair of walks. But Gaines coaxed a pop-up and and a groundout from the next two batters to end the inning.
Tupelo got back-to-back singles from William Goss and Will Cox with one out in the sixth, but couldn’t advance them.
But the 49ers broke through in the seventh, Drew Alford was hit by a pitch from Painter to lead off. Alford moved up on Cody Shrewsbury’s sacrifice bunt and Connor Carothers and Tyler Moore walked to load the bases.
Nanney then slammed a double off the left field wall to score all three runners.
Cox was 2 for 3 and Brandon Woodruff 2 for 4 for Tupelo and Cody Turner was 2 for 4 for Gaffney.
The South Carolina team scored its run in the bottom of the inning.
Michael Wright walked, advanced to second on an infield out, took third on a wild pitch and scored when Dylan Huskey beat out a slow roller to short for an infield hit.
Presley stressed the importance of getting a second straight complete game from his starting pitchers.
“It’s different when you get to the tournaments and you might play as many as five game in a couple of days,” he said. “You’ve got to have plenty of arms and we’re saving ours up.”
Hopefully for something big, Nanney says.
“Why not us?” he said. “We’re here and we’re playing well. Why not win it?”