The third place Nelson Diamondbacks pushed the powerhouse Trail Reds to their limit on Tuesday night in the West Kootenay Babe Ruth semi-finals.
The Diamondbacks traveled to Trail’s Butler Park riding high after an 18-7 pounding of Grand Forks the night before in the league’s quarter finals. But facing the regular season champion Reds, Nelson would need a miracle if they were to advance to the finals of the 13-15 year old league.
“Going in we knew that history had it as a bit of a David and Goliath scenario,” said Diamondbacks manager Larry Martel. “Our goal was to compete hard and make sure we did whatever it took to pull off an upset.”
The Diamondbacks got off to a shaky start, falling behind 5-2 after the first inning.
By the top of the fourth, the Diamondbacks had clawed their way back thanks to a dropped ball on the third strike to Garnett Duplessie, which allowed Eric Hurley to hustle home for the tying run.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Reds scored two runs early and with one out had the bases loaded. A short hit went to pitcher Quin Hall who fired it home for the out and catcher Kaleb Comishin promptly threw to first for the double play.
“At this point of the season you hope the players make the right decisions and that was a big play that showed their instincts were right on,” said Martel.
The game entered the seventh inning with the Reds holding a solid 10-5 lead and Nelson needing an open inning hitting spree to have a chance.
Starting with the bottom of the order, Andrew Falcone drew the walk. Nelson quickly loaded the bases and with the Trail pitcher struggling a run scored on a walk.
Nelson veteran Dylan Jacobs then came to the plate and promptly stroked a single that scored two runs and closed the gap to 10-8. With two outs, Brendan Martel kept the Diamondbacks’ chances alive when he hit a single to drive in another run.
With two outs and two strikes against him, Kyle Hall hit a single through the first and second basemen to drive in two more and give the Diamondbacks the 11-10 lead.
With a deep breath, the Diamondbacks took to the field in hopes of hanging onto the slim lead and pull off the upset.
After pitching a solid two innings in the fifth and sixth, Diamondbacks ace Braeden Zarikoff took to the mound. Zarikoff struck out the first Trail batter and walked the second batter. A hard single down the third base line then scored the runner to make the game 11-11. The next batter hit a fly ball to centre field which was tracked down by Joel Aubert for the second out.
With the Trail batter stealing to third base and two strikes at the plate, an unfortunate passed ball led to the winning run for Trail.
“There is absolutely no reason for any of the boys to hang their heads,” said Martel. “It was a fantastic effort and though we fell just short, it showed how much this team improved over the season.
“Nelson baseball has made up a tremendous amount of ground on Trail and we provided a hec of a scare to a really good baseball team. It was a great final game in a very good season for our Little League program. We are looking to join in with the Okanagan Baseball AA league next year for some interleague play since our skill level at all ages is greatly improved. Nelson is looking for more games at some better, higher level baseball for all of the age groups”.
Nelson hosts the West Kootenay Little League Minor playoffs this weekend. Head to nelsonbaseball.ca for the schedule of games at Lion’s Park and Queen Elizabeth Park.