Fox Post-2 reaches winner’s bracket final of American Legion state tournament

WILMINGTON — It wasn’t his preferred way of getting on base, but after scoring the winning run, Miguel Rivera wasn’t complaining.

Rivera was hit by a pitch three at-bats in a row in Fox Post-2’s American Legion state tournament game on Tuesday. The last time was in the ninth inning and set up a walkoff win for the Dover-area squad.

Trey Howard’s sacrifice fly plated Rivera as second-seeded Fox Post-2 edged No. 6 seed Nanticoke Post-6 Patriots 3-2 to reach the winners’ bracket final of the double-elimination tournament.

“I’ll take it,” Rivera said. “It’s a free base and they were throwing a good game. Do what you got to do to get on, then when guys get on, move them over and the guys behind them do their job.”
Fox Post-2 will meet top seed Delaware Post-1 today at 4:30 p.m. at Wilmington University’s Wilson Field. They are the two remaining unbeaten teams left in the tournament.

With the game tied 2-2 in the final inning, Rivera stepped to the plate already having been plunked twice. He led off the bottom of the ninth by taking a pitch off his left arm.

The recent Polytech High grad was then bunted over to second by Brent Buckson. Rivera then moved to third on a mishandled groundball which set up Howard for the game-winner.

Howard, a current Dover High player, smacked a flyball to the middle of centerfield, just deep enough to allow Rivera to dash home and his head-first slide into home just beat the throw from the outfield.

“The bunt was the thing that got him into position to get him home,” said Fox Post-2 manager Paul Quirk. “Brent gets the bunt down then it’s just a good piece of hitting by Trey to get the ball to the outfield.”

The game was still tied at that point mainly due to Tommy Pomatto’s effort in relief.

Pomatto, a current Caesar Rodney High player, was put in to pitch with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the seventh. That’s when Nanticoke Post-6 elected to attempt a suicide squeeze.

The bunt was hit on a line back toward the mound and Pomatto dover forward to snatch it out of the air before it hit the ground. He then threw to third to double to runner off before retiring the next batter to escape the jam.

“It’s always hard to read the ball right off the bat and you got very little time to react,” Pomatto said. “At first I thought it was right at my but then I had to dive. You’re doing everything you need to do to catch that ball. Coming in with bases loaded no outs, I was really happy with how that all unfolded.”

“You don’t see that everyday,” Quirk said. “You get an athlete like that, he saved the game for us basically.”

Pomatto also pitched his way out of a bases-loaded situation in the top of the ninth, inducing a grounder to shortstop for a fielder’s choice and the final out.

Pomatto and Cam Turner combined to hold the Sussex County squad to two runs on seven hits. Turner had a shutout through the first five innings until Nanticoke Post-6 tied it on Justin Gray’s RBI-double and a base-hit by Jake Rogers.

Fox Post-2 was hampered by three fielding errors but Pomatto and Turner were able to limit the damage.

“We haven’t played our best baseball,” Quirk said. “We were sloppy today but Cam kept us in the game with his pitching. He pitched a great game like he always does.”

“My changeup was on,” said Turner, a recent Dover High graduate. “I probably threw more changeups then I’ve ever had. I was just trying to locate and keep the ball down. After the first couple innings you could tell it was going to be a pitchers duel.”

Dom Velazquez (Dover High) paced the Fox Post-2 offense with a 3-for-3 performance including a double and a run scored.

Delaware Post-1 is the same team who eliminated Fox Post-2 from last year’s tournament on the final day. Delaware Post-1 defeated Smyrna Post-14 8-0 on Tuesday.

Smyrna Post-14 now faces Post-10 Generals today at 9 a.m. in an elimination game. The third game on the schedule today is another elimination game, between Nanticoke Post-6 and Stahl Post-30 at 12:30 p.m.

All remaining tournament games will be played at Wilson Field.

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