Pedal Valves wins regional, earns berth in American Legion World Series

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For the second straight year, the Louisiana state champion is headed to the American Legion World Series.

The Pedal Valves Cardinals started fast and held off Tupelo, Mississippi, 4-2 Sunday in the finals of the Southeast Regional in Tampa.

The Cardinals scored three runs in the bottom of the first and left-hander Stephen Klein did the rest, taking a shutout into the seventh.

“We talked about coming out strong,” Pedal Valves coach Danny Riehm said. “Winning the driver’s seat game, we had an advantage playing a team that had just played in the heat.

“We had chances to tack on runs, but at the end of the day, this was about having one more (run) than the other guys.”

T.J. Thomas led off the bottom of the first with a single and moved to second on an error. Gavin Freeman followed with an RBI double, Nick Lorio followed that with an RBI triple and Klein made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly.

It stayed 3-0 until the bottom of the sixth, when Freeman plated another run with a bases-loaded walk.

Tupelo – which advanced to the championship game earlier Sunday with a 4-2 victory over Troy, Alabama – rallied in the top of the seventh, finally getting on the board on Will Armistead’s two-run single off reliever T.J. Thomas.

Thomas got a pair of flyouts to earn the save and set off a Pedal Valves celebration.

In 6 1/3 innings, Klein allowed four hits, walked one and struck out six, all despite getting hit by a pitch on his right (plant) ankle in the early going. He was named the regional’s most valuable player with a .538 average and four RBI at the plate and a 2.08 ERA in 10 1/3 innings on the mound.

“He’s been our veteran leader lately,” Riehm said of Klein, the only returning player from last year’s team. “We’re not going to the World Series without him. He’s just stepped up like the veteran he is.”

For Pedal Valves, which has won three of the last four Louisiana state titles, it is their first trip to the American Legion World Series, which begins Thursday in Shelby, North Carolina. A year ago, Louisiana champion Gauthier Amedee reached the semifinals.

Pedal Valves will play the opening game of the tournament against the Great Lakes Regional champion – either Beverly/Lowell, Ohio, or Danville, Illinois – at 9 a.m. CDT Thursday. The Cardinals’ next two games of pool play, against the Mid-South and Western champions, will be Friday and Saturday night, respectively, and televised by ESPNU.

“I’m klind of one step at a time,” Riehm said. “Now that we’ve advanced, I’ll talk to the coaches who have been there before.”

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Lenny Vangilder

Lenny Vangilder

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Lenny has been involved in college athletics since the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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