With the jaws of defeat nipping at the Beaver Valley Yankees’ heels, the team staged a dramatic last-inning comeback to capture the Trail Little League Major championship trophy on Sunday at Andy Bilesky Park.
Allison Schroeder blasted a triple into right field to score the tying and winning runs as the Yankees plated five in the bottom of the sixth inning overcoming a 4-0 deficit on their way to a 5-4 victory over the Trail Eagles.
“The kids came through in the crunch,” said Yankees coach Jason Startup. “We were down early, had a lot of things going against us early, but they stuck with it. It’s been our MO all season long and they came through in the end.”
Both B.V. and Trail went undefeated through their respective pools with the Eagles beating the Legion in the semifinal in their own dramatic style, scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth for the 9-8 victory. The Yankees had an easier time of it as they dropped the Nelson Majors 11-1 in the semi to set up the championship game.
The Eagles jumped out to a first inning lead after Owen Bartsch knocked in Cooper Ross to give Trail a 1-0 lead. Luc Miracle made it 2-0 with a solo home-run bomb in the second inning and the Eagles looked to be on their way to another league title when Marty Ingram singled in Ross, and Bartsch scored on a fielder’s choice to make it 4-0 Eagles in the fourth inning.
Austin Cox came on in relief for the Yankees, and with the bases loaded was able to force a ground out, and strike out two batters to get out of the inning without further damage.
Beaver Valley threatened in the bottom of the fourth when Kayden Sedgwick led off with a walk. Eagles pitcher Nate Ingram caught the next batter swinging for the first out, but Yankee slugger Cox stepped up and drove a screaming line drive to centre. It had triple written all over it after centrefielder Bartsch slipped and looked to be out of the play, but while lying on his back, the versatile fielder somehow snagged the ball, making an unbelievable catch for the second out, ending the threat.
“I was disappointed, but at the same time he made an awesome effort to catch it,” said Cox who had two home runs over the weekend, including a game winning blast against the Trail Legion in the round robin.
Both Ingram and Cox kept opposing batters at bay with Cox striking out the side in the fifth and Ingram getting two Ks and a pop up to first base to keep the score 4-0 heading to the sixth and final inning.
But the big Montrose product brought the heat in the sixth, mowing down the first Eagle batter on four pitches, then getting the second out on a fielder’s choice, before striking out the final batter on three straight pitches.
A quick team meeting heading into the bottom of the sixth and some words of wisdom from the B.V. head coach seemed to inspire the Beaver Valley nine.
“I just talked to them about momentum and we were finally getting it coming back onto our side in the bottom of the sixth and said we got to stick with it,” said Startup.
Kai Tichauer led off and got a free pass to first on catcher interference. Dayne Bignell walked and both runners advanced to second and third on a passed ball. With the count 1-1, Sedgwick hit a grounder down the third base line. Trail reliever Miracle jumped on it but a high throw to first scored both runners and left Sedgwick standing on third with the lead cut in half as the rain came down in earnest.
With the tying run at the plate and the B.V. team gathering momentum, time was called and players took to the dugout to wait out the downpour.
“That rain delay didn’t help us, but hey, it’s all about positive attitude and keeping them thinking they can win,” added Startup.
An hour later, they were back at it and the Yankees didn’t miss a beat. Jesse Ihas kept the rally going with a single into shallow right field that scored Sedgwick. Cox then drove a hard grounder up the middle that took a wicked hop on second baseman Steven Ross, who managed to knock it down and save the run from scoring but left the potential tying run on third and winning run on first.
With nobody out, Eagle pitcher Miracle quickly got up on Schroeder, but with two strikes and one ball, Schroeder hung in, fouling off three straight pitches to stay alive.
“I just wanted to get the RBIs and was looking for a pitch right at my belt,” said Schroeder.
The next pitch was a high fastball that Schroeder ripped to right field, sailing over the fielder’s head and rolling to the fence, scoring Ihas and Cox for the 5-4 victory.
“Super at bat,” said Startup. “She’s been a battler all year, probably one of our best players throughout the whole season. She had one of her best at bats at the end and came through with a huge hit, game winner.”
The improbable sixth-inning comeback put a halt to a great run for coaches D. J. Ashman and Mike Boisvert and the Trail Eagles, which had won the past four league championships, and were just three outs away from their fifth. But B.V. has been a force all season, taking 3-of-4 from the Eagles in league play and winning the May Days tournament, and along with the Trail Legion, local teams enjoyed a competitive and exciting parity throughout the season.
“I’m super proud of it, this is a big thing for Beaver Valley baseball, and these kids earned it they had a great season right from the beginning. The best part of it is the improvement I’ve seen with these kids all year long. It’s been absolutely fantastic, it came together in the end for us and it couldn’t have been a better finish.”