Las Vegas meet Shelby, N.C., a small Southern town of about 21,000 people. Or is it Shelby meet Sin City?
Either way you look at them, they are an odd couple. The two have been able to coexist this week, and now Shelby will watch the Titans as they play for the American Legion World Series title at 1 p.m. today.
“I think Vegas and Shelby are as opposite as two places on the earth as you can get,” said Shelby-area fan Chris Wooton, who has been to several games this week. “We all know they’re from the big city and we’ve all heard how good they are. I think some people here, we’re still waiting for them to prove it.”
Bishop Gorman (74-7-1) has done all its talking on the baseball field, winning all four games, including a 6-1 victory over South Richmond (Va.) on Monday night, to stretch its winning streak to 20 in a row.
Matt Hall tossed a complete-game four-hitter and held South Richmond off the board until the ninth inning. He struck out four and didn’t walk a batter.
Gorman gave Hall all the offensive support he needed with two runs in the third inning on an Erik Van Meetren single, and two more in the fourth on a double by Joey Rickard.
Rickard was 4-for-4 with two RBIs for the Titans, who will play Pasco (Wash.) for the championship.
“When Joey has a day like he did today, we’re going to win games,” Las Vegas coach Chris Sheff said. “When he gets on, it’s a recipe for success.”
By defeating Richmond and Sumter (S.C.) — two teams with regional ties — Gorman has cemented its role as the big, bad favorite — at least in the eyes of local fans.
“Everybody here kept telling us that Sumter was going to get us,” Gorman left fielder Neil Lawhorn said. “Everybody is out to get us, giving us their best shot because we’ve won so many games. I think we like that.”
While Gorman has enjoyed its stay in Shelby, some fans say the Las Vegas team is starting to grow on them.
“A lot of people wanted someone from around here to win it like Sumter, and (I think) they were (cheering) against Vegas,” Wooton said. “But in the end, we just want to see good baseball. They (Vegas) definitely know how to do that.”
While the Titans have been the best team on the field this week in Shelby, as the only team yet to lose, they have also been stars off the field in town.
“Everybody I talk to knows who we are,” Gorman third baseman and pitcher Scott Dysinger said, pausing to order his meal at Waffle House. “It’s like the whole town is revolving around the World Series. I think that’s pretty cool because it wouldn’t be that way (in Las Vegas).”
The Gorman players list their highlights off the field as eating barbecue, slaw and hush puppies in addition to late-night trips to Waffle House.
But on the field, they are only here for only one reason.
“We’re all here for the same thing, and that is to win a (World Series) title,” Gorman pitcher Donn Roach said.
Stephen Manthei will start for Gorman today. If Pasco wins, the teams will play a second game immediately following the first with Roach starting for the Titans.
“As coaches, you have to approach it a little differently,” Sheff said. ”They have to beat us. We’re in a spot where it makes no sense to throw our No. 1 pitcher (Roach) in the first game. If there’s a second game and we need him, he’s ready to go.”
Review-Journal sportswriter Bartt Davis contributed to this report.