SPOKANE, Wash. — Sierra Vista still has a chance to win the American Legion World Series, but the Lions made the task considerably more challenging Sunday night.
Only three outs from their third straight victory of the tournament, the Lions allowed three runs in the top of the ninth inning and suffered a 6-4 loss to Eden Prairie, Minn.
Tony Skjefte, batting .533 (8-for-15) in three games in the tournament, ripped a two-run single past diving Sierra Vista shortstop Billy Santiwan to knock in the tying and winning runs with two outs.
The Lions, who led 4-1 after three innings, went down in order in the bottom of the inning.
Skjefte’s winning hit came off Jake Hager, who relieved losing starter Blair Goldsack (11-3) with one out in the ninth. Eden Prairie collected two doubles off Goldsack and three singles off Hager in the inning after Goldsack had limited Eden Prairie to seven hits and three runs in the first eight innings.
“We’ve just got to keep our heads up,” Sierra Vista coach Levi Gill said after speaking to his solemn club. “They’re competing. Baseball is a game where you’re not going to win every game.
“Baseball is a game of adversity. You just remind them (his players) that they’ve worked hard all year.
“If it was easy, everyone would do it. You’re supposed to be able to handle adversity. A little adversity is good.”
With their tournament life at stake, the Lions (48-16) play Roseburg, Ore. (35-14) at 4 p.m. Monday.
The winner advances to play Tuesday against the winner of Monday’s 7 p.m. game between Eden Prairie (38-7) and Midwest City, Okla. (63-10). A second championship game might be necessary Tuesday.
Blake Schmit singled and scored in the first inning for Eden Prairie, but in the bottom half Hager smashed the first pitch by Matt Lintner for a triple off the wall in left-center. Brooks Klein followed with an RBI single.
Santiwan and Julian Cutolo opened the second with singles and scored on an Alex Estrella single and a Lintner wild pitch before an estimated 400 fans at Avista Stadium.
Matt Holman doubled in the third and scored on Connor Klein’s double to push Sierra Vista ahead 4-1.
The score remained unchanged until Skjefte singled leading off the sixth and scored. In the seventh, No. 9 hitter David Belusky hit the first of his two doubles and scored to make it 4-3.
Gill said the Lions might have cost themselves the game with several baserunning mistakes in the early innings.
But Eden Prairie assistant coach Mike Halloran praised the Lions for being “very well-coached. They’re a very solid defensive team.”
Sierra Vista 121 000 000 – 4 9 1
Lintner, Thonvold (8), Miller (9) and Halloran; Goldsack, Hager (9) and Tomassetti. W–Thonvold. L–Goldsack. Sv–Miller. 2B–EP: Belusky 2, Lintner; SV: Holman, C. Klein, Estrella. 3B–SV: Hager.