After five games, including three elimination contests, the Hamiota Red Sox had one last shot at claiming the senior AA provincial baseball title before heading to extra innings against Border West and Zane Sawyer took advantage, blooping a short fly over the infield and into shallow right field with two outs in the ninth inning to drive home the winning run and give his team the title of champions with a 5-4 victory on Aug. 5 at Red Sangster field.
The Red Sox trailed 4-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh and final regulation inning. Chris Obach got a leadoff single, Brett Braybrook moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt and Trevor Kozak sent him to third with a fly ball down the right field line. Then Jeff Knight tied the score 4-4 with a single. Travis Brooks made it look like an extra inning was coming when he was called out after the ball hit him outside the batter's box on a bunt attempt but Sawyer ensured that it wasn't needed.
The win avenged an 8-0 shutout to Border West in the round robin, Hamiota's only loss of the tournament. They opened Sunday with an 8-3 win over Springfield to advance to the semifinal, where they beat Minnedosa 2-1 to earn a shot at the championship.
Border West had an easier run to the title game, finishing first in Pool A with a 2-0 record to earn a bye to the other semifinal, where they beat Brandon 9-2.
Hamiota was half an inning away from going winless in the round robin as they faced the host Thompson Reds, scoring four in the bottom of the seventh to win that game 5-4 after trailing 4-1 coming into their final at-bat.
Hamiota scored first in the game, but Thompson answered back, tying the game 1-1 in the third after the Red Sox got on the board the previous inning, then extending the lead when Jeff Katchmar drove in two with a double to deep centre field in the fifth and making it a three-run cushion when Ryan Chigol's fly over the infield drove in one more in the sixth inning.
The Reds also led in their other round robin game, scoring five times in the bottom of the second inning to go ahead 7-1 over Border West before giving up five in the top of the fourth and coming out on the wrong end of another come-from-behind victory in the seventh inning as the game ended 9-8 for Border West.
Thompson was eliminated in the first playoff round, losing 7-2 to Brandon.
Coach Jack Sangster said despite the disappointing round robin losses, the Reds had to overcome adversity just to be in a position to win. His two top pitchers didn't make it to the tournament and he had to turn to Ramsey Thomas to be his starter in the opening game against Hamiota. For Thomas, it was the first time he'd pitched in five years.
"I thought he pitched a hell of a game," said Sangster.
First baseman Todd Harwood became a pitcher for the team's second game.
"I thought he pitched very well," Sangster said, and Jeff English came in to pitch much of the playoff game on Sunday, his first experience pitching against such tough competition. "He throws lots of junk with a knuckleball and a slow curve."
Some aspects of the Reds' game weren't quite up to snuff and the tournament saw a number of baserunners picked off or caught in rundowns on steal attempts.
"That's not being sharp", said Sangster, noting that these were the first games Thompson ballplayers had played except amongst themselves all season. "That's just lack of experience in good ball."
Nonetheless, Sangster said he's seen improvements at provincials over the past few years and other teams have noticed as well.
"Every year we get closer and closer," he said. "They throw good pitching at us because they know we're getting better. All in all, I thought the guys played well over the weekend."