NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Cole Stapler showed few ill effects of a 4-hour, 33-minute delay on Monday.
Stapler struck out nine and allowed only two hits in seven innings, leading Gauthier & Amedee to a 5-1 victory over Midwest City, Okla., in the championship game of the American Legion Mid-South Regional at Vince DeSalvo Stadium.
G&A advances to the American Legion World Series, which begins Friday in Shelby, N.C. G&A is scheduled to play at 1 p.m. on Friday.
Stapler, a hard-throwing 6-4 right-hander, tossed a no-hitter for 6.2 innings before giving up a home run to Zach Brannon, who smacked Stapler’s first offering over the 375-foot sign in straight-away center field. Austin Tanner closed out G&A’s victory, tossing one-hit ball during the final two innings.
Gonzales held a 3-0 lead when the game was first delayed.
“We weren’t going to rush (Stapler) to get back or say ‘the pressure’s on you to come back,’ ” Gauthier & Amedee coach Justin Morgan said. “What we did was wait until we got here and see how he felt. I told him we were going to go one inning at a time. ... I can’t commend him enough for his effort tonight. It was an incredible effort.”
The teams had played 31/2 innings when tournament officials stopped the game at 4:32 p.m. because of lightning. Minutes later, there was a power outage at the stadium, and the teams were sent back to their hotels. The game resumed at 9:05 and ended at 10:35.
Stapler said he stayed loose during the long delay by staying on his feet and swinging a weighted ball.
“I kept telling Coach Morgan I was good,” said Stapler, who walked three and hit a batter. “I told him I wanted to come back and finish this game.”
There was also an 11-minute delay just four pitches into the bottom of the fourth when Midwest City’s Corey Zangari suffered a hyperextended knee attempting to chase down a pop fly in left field. Zangari was carted off the field and taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital in North Little Rock.
All of G&A’s runs were scored with two outs.
Blain Schexnayder, who was selected as the tournament’s MVP, drove in a run with a single in the first inning. Grant McCrory doubled in a run in the third, and Madison Nickens singled in a run in the fifth.
Gauthier & Amedee also picked up runs when Austin Bain scored on a wild pitch in the first, and when Schexnayder stole home in the seventh.
“This was a full team effort,” said Morgan, whose team had 10 base hits but left 11 runners on base. “We’re going off of pitching and defense, and we’re just trying to manufacture a few more runs. We didn’t do a great job of that tonight. If there’s something we can improve on in the next two or three games, it’s manufacture more runs.”