SUMTER, S.C. - Kelvan Diaz watched mound-mate Anthony Bazzani throw a shutout Thursday evening. On Friday, he equaled his former Heritage teammate.
Diaz tossed a six-hit shutout, striking out eight in Conyers' 2-0 victory over Bayamon (Puerto Rico) Post 48 in the second round of the American Legion Southeast Regional at Riley Park. Diaz, who is half-Puerto Rican, retired 11 consecutive batters at one point and admitted to being excited about facing Puerto Rico.
"I was just looking up at my dad, he was cheering for me. He's Puerto Rican, I'm half-Puerto Rican," said Diaz, who hasn't allowed a run in his last 102/3 post-season innings. "I was so ready to pitch when I heard (Puerto Rico) was in the tournament."
"That's the best game he's pitched all year long," coach Eddie Bagwell said. "We've had two days in a row (where) our pitchers calmly went about their business."
While Diaz was in the midst of shutting down the Bayamon lineup, Conyers finally got to Post 48 starter Gabriel Hernandez (7 IP, 1 ER) in the seventh. After two groundouts, Beau Thomas walked and stole second, and Ross Roberts drove a run-scoring single to put Post 77 up 1-0.
"I fought off some pretty good pitches. I got the good part (of the bat). I was pumped," Roberts said.
Bayamon had baserunners in each of the last three innings, but Diaz made big pitches and escaped each jam unscathed.
In the seventh, Juan Natal walked and Melvin Rodriguez singled with one out. Diaz challenged Gabriel Roa and got a strikeout before inducing a fielder's choice from Kelvin Arroyo to end the threat.
Jose Rivera ripped a one-out single in the eighth, and Diaz got a fly out and a strikeout to keep it a one-run game.
Conyers added an insurance run in the ninth as Nick Woodward walked, went to third on a fly out and scored on an error by Bayamon shortstop Roberto Ponce to make it 2-0.
Diaz worked around a leadoff single in the ninth, striking out Arroyo to close his 121-pitch performance.
"From the scouting reports, they sit on fastballs," Diaz said. "I kept them off-balance."
"He just pitched against a heck of a team and shut them down," Bagwell said.
Conyers, whose starters have allowed two earned runs in the last 321/3 postseason innings, will play the winner of Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Post 34 and Rowan County (N.C.) Post 342 in today's winner's bracket final. Brandon Thomas, a winner in the state title game against Douglasville July 26, is expected to get the starting nod.
"The most important game of the tournament; that's the key to everything," Bagwell said. "We're going to go (with) all we've got. The tougher the pressure, I think (Thomas is) better."
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.