The Trail Minor Orioles came through in the clutch on Wednesday night at the B.C. Little League Baseball championship, defeating the Dunbar All Stars 10-9 in a thrilling, winner-move-on matchup at Andy Bilesky Park.
With the fourth and final playoff spot still to be determined, the Orioles went into the game against Dunbar with a win-you’re-in mindset. In the event of a loss, the Orioles, Dunbar, and Beacon Hill would have identical 1-4 records and the playoff spot would be decided by run-differential.
“I think we were looking pretty good, but we didn’t want to take out the calculator,” said Trail coach Jim Maniago.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth inning, Nathan Dann would knock in what proved to be the winning run with a perfectly placed single over the second-baseman’s head. Dann showed patience at the plate all night, and looked at two balls before sending the third pitch into right field scoring Brayden DeWitt and giving the Orioles a 10-3 lead.
“All our kids are good ball players, and like the saying goes ‘every dog has his day,’ you know we’ve had some kids struggling and we’ve had kids playing well, tonight it was a few different kids doing different things,” said Maniago.
The Orioles started the game strong going up 2-0 when Bryce Sookro belted a triple scoring Noah Quinn who led off with a single. Darren Issel would then plate Sookro with a sacrifice fly.
Dunbar replied in the top of the second with a single run, but a couple nice fielding plays by shortstop Kenton Forte and second baseman Reid Gerrand would squash a rally and get the O’s out of the inning, with the bases loaded.
Seamus Boyd and Connor Stainer would score in the bottom half of the inning to make it 4-1 and Trail would blank Dunbar in the top of the third, setting up a big third inning, where the Orioles scored three more to make it 7-1.
However, Dunbar started to erode the lead in the top of four, scoring two more runs to make it 7-3.
Trail would answer in the bottom half of the inning with Issel banging a double over the head of the left fielder and sending Will Doerksen to third. An error and a couple walks would load the bases and score two runs, before Dann stepped up and plated DeWitt with his second hit of the night.
Yet, in minor baseball, no lead is safe, as Dunbar mounted a rally in the top of the fifth, scoring six runs on one hit, four walks, and two errors.
The big blast came from Dunbar’s Owen Busser who stepped up with the bases loaded and belted one to right field that took a sideways bounce past the fielder and rolled to the fence, scoring three runs to make it 10-8. Busser would score on a fielders choice to cut the lead to one, but the O’s would get out of the inning with two nice fielding plays from Jake Maniago at first.
Dunbar sat down the O’s in order in the bottom of the fifth and looked to take the lead in the final inning, but Sookro would catch the first batter swinging, and after giving up a single and a walk would let his defence take care of the rest, as two ground balls would end the provincials for Dunbar.
“I was confident Bryce was going to throw strikes and we’d make the plays,” said Maniago. “We were on the edge of our seats for sure, it was closer than it needed to be, but we got it done, and that’s the main thing.”
Despite the loss Dunbar coach Dan Vandenberg was pleased with his team’s effort in the final game of the round robin.
“They showed some character in coming back. We were disappointed being 0-4 going into this game but they fought hard and we’re proud of that,” said Vandenberg.
The win puts Trail in sole possession of fourth place with a 2-3 record, and they will play top-seed, Hastings, in the playoff today at noon, a team the O’s lost to 12-7 in their first game of the tournament.
“I think they know we can play with them, and our boys know we can play with them,” said Maniago. “If we stay close like we did and get a key hit here or there, I think we can throw a scare into them.”
Highlands plays the White Rock All Stars at 3:30 p.m. today with the final going Saturday at noon.