American Legion: Big bro beats little bro as Sentinels sweep Pilots

File photo of St. George Sentinels vs. Dixie Pilots, American Legion Baseball, St. George, UT, July 14, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Jagun Leavitt, the recently graduated Pine View High star, helped his team defeat Ajay Leavitt, the rising Dixie High star, as the St. George Sentinels beat the Dixie Pilots 2-1 and 11-3 Friday night in American Legion baseball action at Flyer Field.

The matchup of the two brothers was analogous to the Sentinels and the Pilots. Like the older Jagun, St. George is the established star in southern Utah with the Dixie team trying to make a name for itself in its first year while growing and gaining ground in American Legion play.

And with Ajay Leavitt, the junior-to-be on the mound, the youngsters had a leg up early in the night. In fact, Ajay struck out Jagun in the first inning en route to six innings of stellar one-hit work on the mound in Game 1.

“Yeah, he fooled me on that one,” Jagun Leavitt said. “I’ll probably never live that strikeout down. But I got him back later in the game with a single. It was pretty cool seeing him shut down our team, because we’re all pretty dang good hitters. Seeing him throw six scoreless innings was pretty impressive.”

St. George Sentinels vs. Dixie Pilots, American Legion Baseball, St. George, UT, July 14, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Ajay Leavitt’s only hit allowed through those first six innings was Jagun’s single to left field in the top of the fourth. Amazingly, it was the first time the siblings, two years apart, had ever squared off.

“We’ve played catch in the backyard and stuff, but this was the first time I’ve ever actually faced him in a game,” Jagun said. “I was a little over-aggressive and he fooled me with a couple of curveballs. I’m going to have to live with that one the rest of my life.”

Jagun can take solace in that his team did eventually get to Ajay and came away with a crucial two-game sweep to capture the No. 2 seed in the upcoming American Legion playoffs.

Ajay allowed his second hit on a single by Alec Flemetakis with one out in the top of the seventh of Game 1. But it looked as if the shutout would be complete on the next batter. Weston Sampson smacked a hard liner to short that was plucked from the air by leaping Dixie shortstop Kayler Yates. He landed and wheeled toward first to try and double off Flemetakis. The throw was a little low and the Dixie first baseman couldn’t corral it. Had he been able to hold on, the game would have been over.

Ajay Leavitt, St. George Sentinels vs. Dixie Pilots, American Legion Baseball, St. George, UT, July 14, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Instead, Ryke Erickson stepped up and hit a hot shot to the hole on the left side. Yates knocked it down, but had no play and runners were on first and second with two outs. Dawson Staheli then gave the Sentinels their first lead of the game by bombing a long fly to the base of the fence in left field. The two-run triple put the score at 2-1 for St. George.

In the bottom of the seventh, Flemetakis gave up a lead-off double to Chase Lundin. But the Dixie State signee retired the next three batters on a groundout and two pop outs to end the game.

“I knew I just had to stay patient on the mound, even though they were shutting us out,” Flemetakis said. “I had faith in my teammates that if I kept the score close, they would come through and they did.”

Flemetakis ended up with the win, going all seven innings and allowing one run on seven hits. He gave up six walks, but also forced the Pilots to strand 11 men on base.

Dixie’s only run in that first game came in the bottom of the second, when Ajay Leavitt led off with a walk and came around to score on a Chandler Welch RBI. Dixie left the bases loaded in the sixth and left two men on in the first, fourth and fifth innings.

The second game in the doubleheader didn’t have near as much drama and dragged into the wee moments of Saturday morning.

Nick Horsley, St. George Sentinels vs. Dixie Pilots, American Legion Baseball, St. George, UT, July 14, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

It was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the second when Jagun Leavitt’s double to left-center made it 3-1. He scored a moment later on a Dixie error and it was 4-1 after two innings.

With Payton Higgins throwing well on the mound for the Sentinels, the lead grew to 6-1 in the third when Flemetakis roped a homer over the left field fence.

“I was fooled on the first pitch for sure,” Flemetakis said. “I don’t think I was really ready to hit. Then I got a locked in and focused and I got a nice fastball down the middle and I closed my eyes and swung. I knew it was gone as soon as I hit it.”

Dixie battled back to a 6-3 score after an Ajay Leavitt RBI double and an RBI from Cador Cox in the top of the fifth.

But big bro Jagun got the last laugh as he ripped a two-run double in the bottom of the fifth as part of a five-run rally for the Sentinels that put the game away.

“I thought, in that second game, it was the first time we’ve hit the ball really hard in quite some time,” Sentinels coach Shane Johanson said. “We were able to jump out ahead early and then finish out the win, even though it did get a little sloppy at the end.”

St. George had nine hits and also drew 10 free passes (seven walks, three hit batters) and took advantage of four Dixie errors. Jagun Leavitt had two doubles and four RBIs and Erickson had two hits and a walk to lead the way.

St. George Sentinels vs. Dixie Pilots, American Legion Baseball, St. George, UT, July 14, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

The Sentinels finish the regular season with a 17-10 overall record, going 10-4 in American Legion South region play.

“Not too bad, to be the second seed after starting the year the way we did,” Johanson said.

St. George, at one point this summer, was 2-5 overall and 2-4 in Legion play. But the Sentinels finished the summer winning 15 of 20 overall and captured eight straight wins in Legion play (two by forfeit).

The Sentinels play next Thursday against the ninth-seeded Price team in the first week of the American Legion state tourney in Helper. St. George beat Price 15-1 and 16-0 earlier this summer. The first set of games will involve just the South Region teams and will run through Jul. 22. Pleasant Grove is the top seed from the South.

The survivors of those first three days then move up to Kearns High’s Marshal-Gates Field July 25-29 to face the survivors from the North Region. The state champ then moves on to the regionals in Denver Aug. 2-6 with a trip to nationals on the line.

Asher Anderson had four hits in the two games for Dixie, which ends its season with a 6-6 American Legion record for 2017. The Pilots are not participating in the American Legion state tournament.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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