The Idaho Falls Bandits are one win away from making Idaho American Legion baseball history.
The Bandits survived a nine-inning thriller Monday to beat Danville, Illinois, 4-3 and secure a spot in Tuesday's championship. They're just the third Idaho team to reach the World Series championship since the event started in 1926.
And with a win Tuesday against Fargo, North Dakota, Idaho Falls will etch its name as the first Idaho Legion team to win the whole thing.
“We want to go down in the record books with our group of guys,” Andrew Gregersen said in an American Legion press release.
Gregersen scored the winning run to end Monday's late semifinal.
He led off the ninth inning with a single, stole second with one out and advanced to third with two outs to set the stage for Nick Layland.
Layland poked his 1-1 pitch up the middle, pushing Gregersen home and sending the Bandits to the winner-take-all championship. It was Layland's first at-bat of the game.
A walk off single by Nick Layland scores Andrew Gregersen to win the game!! pic.twitter.com/XLln7X7nqE— Idaho Falls Bandits (@Ifbandits) August 20, 2019
“It’s surreal,” Gregersen said. “We have a great group of guys I have been playing with since I was 8, and I’m just soaking up our last games together.”
Gregersen's ninth-inning single was just Idaho Falls' second hit of the game.
The Bandits (60-6-1) did most of their damage in the third inning, when a dropped third strike, a walk and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with two outs. Kai Howell scored on a wild pitch, and Randon Hostert cleared the bases with a two-RBI double -- Idaho Falls' only hit until Gregersen's ninth-inning single.
Illinois was down to its final strike before extending the game in the top of the seventh.
With his team trailing 3-1 with the bases loaded and two outs, Logan Spicer got down 0-2 in the count before lining a two-run single to center, tying the score at 3-3.
Illinois threatened again in the eighth, when a runner got to second base with two outs. Bandits pitcher Caden Christensen, working in long relief of starter Austin Charboneau, escaped trouble that time and sat Illinois down in order in the top of the ninth.
Christensen earned the win on the mound after throwing 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs (one earned).
Idaho Falls earned a rematch with Fargo for the championship. The Bandits opened the tournament with a 7-3 win over Fargo on Thursday.
No team from Idaho or North Dakota has even won an American Legion World Series. The two other Idaho teams to play for the title were Pocatello in 1926 and Lewiston in 2001.
“This whole year this team has been checking boxes,” Bandits coach Ryan Alexander said. “It is the winningest team in Idaho Falls Bandits history, the first team to win a regional and now we have a chance to be the first to win a World Series.”
The championship game is Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. MDT and can be watched live on ESPNews. It will re-air after the game on ESPNU.
Earlier Monday, the Bandits beat Randolph County, North Carolina, 4-3 in a game that was originally scheduled for Sunday but got delayed because of weather conditions. Bruer Webster and Alex Cortez has three hits apiece, including a pair of doubles from Webster and two RBIs from Cortez.
IDAHO FALLS 4, RANDOLPH COUNTY 3
Idaho Falls 000 121 0 — 4 10 1
Randolph Co. 100 002 0 — 3 7 2
Idaho Falls — WP: Hanson. 2B: Webster (2).
Randolph Co. — LP: Marsh. 2B: Marsh.
IDAHO FALLS 4, DANVILLE 3 (9)
Danville 100 000 200 -- 3 7 2
Idaho Falls 003 000 001 -- 4 2 1
Danville -- LP: Dalbey.
Idaho Falls -- WP: Christensen. 2B: Hostert.