Tigers topple Pirates in thriller final

The Trail Tigers clawed their way to victory over the defending champion Trail Pirates 2-1.

The Trail Tigers clawed their way to victory over the defending champion Trail Pirates 2-1 in an extra-inning thriller at Butler Park on Tuesday to capture the Trail XBL Senior Baseball championship.

The XBL baseball playoffs went down to the wire, but in the end, the Tigers exacted a measure of revenge for the 10-1 drubbing the Pirates laid on the Tigers in last year’s final.

The Tigers were the top seed heading into the playoffs having won the league by a mere half game over the Trail Expos. However, after a double-knockout playoff run, the third-seeded Pirates would bounce the Expos 8-3 in the semifinal and move on to face the Tigers in the final.

The Pirates needed to beat the Tigers twice to repeat as champions and accomplished the first task, taking the first game 7-6 last week, and forcing the final winner-take-all match up on Tuesday.

The game came down to a tense pitching duel between the Tigers’ Joel Graf and Pirates’ ace Dallas Calvin.

Each team would exchange unearned runs, and the game remained tied 1-1 through seven innings. The Tigers then loaded the bases in the eighth with nobody out, but Calvin bore down and struck out the next two batters, and got the final out to fly out to centrefield to kill the rally.

But in the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers would finally find a way to score. Graf came to the plate and would reach first on an error. He’d steal second, and then swipe third. With the game on the line, the Tiger batter drilled the ball down the first-base line, but the Bucs first baseman made a great grab and fired it to third in an attempt to catch the runner off the base for the double play. The ball bounced by the third baseman, and Graf would score the winning run.

“Both guys were unreal,” said Pirates fielder Scott Calvin. “No walks at all in the game between them.”

Graf and Calvin both went the distance, allowing just four hits while striking out 14 batters each, with all the runs unearned.

The game wrapped up a successful season that saw six teams, including the Trail AA Orioles and Grand Forks Blues, compete in the XBL Senior league and play over 130 games at Butler Park.