ORLEANSâ€“With darkness creeping across the night sky, Trey Azur crossed home plate for the eventually game winning run on a single by Jared Hussey to give the North Country Athletics the 3-2 win and the trophy for the Babe Ruth 14-U League Championship.
"I knew it was going to be a close game as both teams were so evenly matched," said A's coach Dennis Myrick.
All signs pointed to a classic match-up between the top two teams in the league. Lake Region had the advantage in the win column, and thusly were awarded home field for the championship game.
Coming off of a dominating performance in the semi-finals, Logan Harper was once again called upon to take the hill for the boys in blue.
The A's countered with Colin Myrick, who can more than hold his own against any competition.
With the sun still shining and the temperature holding at a comfortable level, Harper and the rest of the home team took the field to begin the contest.
Phoenix Malanga opened the game with a strike-out followed by Hussey's walk, and here is where things got interesting.
With Colin at the plate, Hussey reached second on a wild pitch.
Myrick flied out and as Hussey tagged up, the throw was on its' way to third. It would get by LR's Will Seguin and Hussey came around to score the first run of the game.
Shane Goodell was next up and walked, took second on another wild pitch, and then went to third on a failed pick-off attempt (an occurrence that would plague both teams).
All this took place while Ben Myrick was in the box waiting to take his cuts.
Before things got out of hand, Harper induced the 4-3 ground-out to end the top of the first.
Ryan Fletcher led off the home half with a single, and with Caleb Sweeny at the plate, reached third on failed pick-off attempt number two of the contest, forcing Colin to pitch with a man on third and no outs.
Certainly not the most desirable way to start your outing.
But the pressure seemed not to bother the tall right-hander as K'd Sweeny, got Kolby George to pop-out to third and then he struck out his counterpart Harper to emerge unscathed in the inning.
Harper, still appearing to be fuming about not driving in Fletcher, mowed down the side in the second
Myrick allowed a base runner on his own error while handling a bunt, but that would be all as it was still 1-0 NC after two.
Not much was doing in the third except a close call when Fletcher was called out at second on a stolen base attempt.
From where I was standing he looked to be safe, but it was not to be and Lake Region was still looking for their first run of the game after three.
Looking to help out his own cause Myrick tripled to lead of the fourth, but no one could bring him home.
Perhaps feeling a little frustrated himself, he went out and struck out the side keeping LR off the score sheet.
It was more of the same in the fifth and sixth, and as we headed into the bottom of seventh, Lake Region's back was up against the wall.
With the home team sporting rally caps and cheering wildly, Myrick plunked Bailey Turner to lead off the inning.
Turner quickly bolted for second, but Hussey gunned him down.
Connor Fletcher struck out, but got to first as the ball got past Hussey.
Eli Leroux struck out for what should have been out number three, but instead Nick Leblanc came strolling up to the plate with the game on his bat. Connor must have been feeling a little froggy, jumping off the bag at first and swiping second and then third to really make things interesting.
Leblanc walked and Ryan Fletcher was now the man with the pressure resting on his shoulders.
He drove a ball towards Trent Bathalon at 3rd, but it ate him up, everyone was safe, and the game was tied 1-1.
George took the mound for Lake Region in the 8th and allowed one run as Colin singled, stole second, took off from third when the throw got past Seguin and scored the go ahead run.
The A's sent Goodell to face the middle of the LR line-up in the home half of the eighth and he allowed the tying run in the form of Harper to cross the plate when Seguin atoned for his miscue and drove him in.
The sun was now firmly beyond the hills in left field and the lack of light, combined with the back and forth nature of the game, indicated that this contest may not finish on this evening.
Again it was the bottom of the line-up getting things going for North Country in the ninth.
Bathalon was retired 1-3, but brothers Trey and Cole Azur each walked. Malanga reached on a fielders choice, and with Trey on third, he stole second to put two in scoring position with Hussey at the plate.
The Catcher did not disappoint, driving in Azur with a single as Malanga took third.
"We had some good timely hitting, good base running, they made some mistakes, and we took advantage of it," Dennis said of NC's late inning efforts.
With the elder Myrick up next, LR opted to intentionally walk him and take their chances with Goodell.
Ball one, ball two, ball three, and ball four gets away!
Here come Malanga from third, the throw to George.. and he is out!
It was 3-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, and that is where the score would stay as Goodell fanned two and got a pop out to get the win.
"It was exciting," said LR coach Matt Ladd, "Those guys have worked hard all year, and just to see them battle like they did through extra innings felt really good. They did a good job."
Said coach Myrick on the win, "It was pretty nerve racking. Neither team gave up, as I knew they wouldn't. Both teams had great pitching and I'm just real proud of my kids and hats off to them (LR)."
Another tip of the cap goes out to both starting pitchers, as their performance on the mound was electric.
Harper fanned fourteen batters while Myrick K'd nine.
Ladd, commenting on his hurler offered, "The past two games Logan has been really strong. He has given us two complete seven inning games and he did a really good job."
Said Harper, "I was feeling real good out there even though my fast ball was the only pitch that was working for me."
Myrick too was pleased with Colin's game saying, "That was probably his best effort of the season, his longest too. He worked hard all game and what can I say?"
"I was just hitting my spots and my curve ball was working for me," said Colin.
Next for some of these players will be tournaments with their select teams.
The OEC Lightning will be heading off to Granby, while the NC Heat will be hosting a tournament here in Newport the first weekend of August.
More on the Heat tourney as details become available