Nevada rallies to earn 2-1 victory in title game
From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs, Henderson, Nev., Post 40 went from expecting elimination to lifting the 2017 American Legion World Series trophy in just 48 hours after a 2-1 victory over Omaha, Neb., Post 1 on Tuesday night.
After a loss on Sunday, Nevada thought the team was eliminated, but by virtue of a tiebreaker, Post 40 advanced.
A semifinal win over Bryant, Ark., Post 298 on Monday sent the team to the final, where Henderson faced a familiar foe.
A rematch of Game 2 of the tournament proved to be a lot more competitive than the original meeting. In that contest, Nebraska slashed 21 hits, one shy of the American Legion World Series Record, in a 9-1 rout. Nebraska also became the first team in ALWS history with four players each with four or more hits.
The same starter for Nebraska in that game, Joshua Culliver took the hill after a sparkling seven innings of two-hit ball on Thursday against Nevada. Shane Spencer, just 16 years old, got the call for Nevada. Spencer was coming off of his own seven-inning gem, only allowing one hit against Shrewsbury, Mass.
Nevada stranded two runners in each of the first two innings, while Nebraska scored in the bottom of the first to take an early lead.
Tom Steier walked to lead off for Omaha and advanced on a single by Will Hanafan. After a nice bunt by Zach Luckey, Dylan Phillips brought Steier in with a sacrifice fly.
Nevada got a run back as Jack Thomas Wold, who had a .952 slugging percentage in the regional tournament, laced a ball down the right field line for a double with two outs in the third. Wold came around on a single by Garrett Giles. Wold finished with 29 total bases in the regional and World Series tournaments.
The teams remained on level pegging until the sixth inning when Henderson’s J.J. Smith singled, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Nick Thompson did his job to bring in the runner with a sacrifice fly to give the designated visitors the lead.
Spencer, who was locked in on the mound, finished the game off with more stellar pitching, finishing with a line of seven innings pitched, three hits and only one run allowed.
For his work on the hill, Spencer was named the 2017 George W. Rulon Player of the Year.
“It took a couple innings to settle in because I have never been in this atmosphere before,” Spencer said. “I wasn’t expecting these awards as a pitcher. It is a great feeling. I’ve never been on this big of a stage before. What a great feeling it was and I hope I’m here again this year.
"We played with everything we had," Henderson manager Scott Baker said. "What an effort from our players. ..this event is extraordinary. I learned really quickly how special this event is, from honoring the troops and everyone who helps us keeps us safe."