The Rainy Lake Pirates are the beasts of the East, thank in part to a sensational sixth.
Rainy Lake turned a nailbiter into a rout with seven runs in their half of the sixth inning to eventually claim an 11-6 win over the Sight & Sound Wolves in the East Division final of the Rainy River District Fastball League at the Rodrick and Telford Bruyere Ball Field in Couchiching on Tuesday.
The Pirates now await their opponent in the best-of-three league final, but won’t know until later next week who it will be.
That’s because the West Division final will need a second game after the No. 3-rated Stratton Eagles upset the top-seeded Barwick Blue Knights 7-5 in Barwick this past Tuesday.
By handing the Blue Knights their first loss of the double-elimination playoffs, the Eagles ensured themselves a rematch with Barwick within the friendly confines of their home diamond in Stratton next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
Leading only 4-3 after Duane Carlson’s three-run jack over the centre field fence had trimmed their lead to one, the No. 1-ranked Pirates were the ultimate swashbucklers in putting the game out of reach with what would be their final at-bat.
Linden Indian singled to lead off the sixth and was pinch-ran for by Brandon McGinnis, who sprinted over to third on Don “Kimbi” Copenace’s follow-up single.
After Jaden Gustasfson struck out, Mike Parisien hit an RBI sacrifice fly to centre to make it 5-3.
Wolves starter John Desaulniers, who was a perfect 7-0 during the regular season and coming off a 14-4 win over the No. 6-ranked Sabaskong Cubs on Aug. 4, then threw a wicked inside pitch to Rainy Lake’s Jacob Jack.
But the teenager somehow got his bat around in time to steer it into right field to score Copenace.
That opened the floodgates for Rainy Lake.
Cole Tymkin landed a double just in front of a diving Aaron Caul in left field to put two in scoring position.
Desaulniers walked Jesse Tom intentionally to load the bases and set up the force play at any base.
But Dakota Andy disintegrated that strategy with a two-run single to right just beyond the reach of a sprawled Kurtis Wepruk at second base to make it 8-3.
Travis Tom then punctuated the frame with a three-run homer that cleared the fence in centre by no more than three feet to stretch the lead to eight.
Caul crushed a two-out, two-run triple to right to bring home Wepruk and Cole Kaemingh in the top of the seventh.
He then scored on a delayed steal by Jamie Woolsey after Woolsey walked.
But Desaulniers couldn’t extend the rally, grounding out to second to end the ball game.
The Pirates started the game with a bang, as Jesse Tom hit a solo bomb to left to lead off Rainy Lake’s half of the first.
Andy then reached on Kaemingh’s throwing error to first, stole second, went to third on Travis Tom’s sacrifice fly and scored when Indian grounded out to Desaulniers (six IP, 11 runs, 10 hits, one walk, eight strikeouts).
The Sight & Sound hurler threw out Andy, but first baseman Matt Dunn’s subsequent throw home glanced off the glove of Carlson covering the plate, allowing Andy to sneak in the back door to score.
Andy’s RBI fielders’ choice in the third cashed in Tymkin to make it 3-0.
Desaulniers whiffed Jack and Tymkin to start the Pirates’ half of the fifth.
But Jesse Tom singled, with Andy stroking a deep single to right field immediately after.
Wolves outfielder Terry “Goose” McMahon charged the ball to get it in as quick as possible, but had it skip under his glove, allowing Jesse Tom to dash all the way home.
Gustafson, who led all pitchers in regular-season wins (8-2) tired in the late innings, but was in prime form through the first five as he held the Wolves to just one hit.
The righthander finished with a five-hit complete game victory, along with three walks and 10 strikeouts.
In the West final, homers by Tony Armstrong and Murray Armstrong carried the Eagles to their triumph over last year’ league finalists.
Guy Arpin got the win on the hill for Stratton over JJ Landry, with Kevin Gemmell’s four-bagger the only serious blemish on Arpin’s record for the evening.
Game 1 of the league final, originally scheduled to start next Tuesday, will be pushed back likely to next Thursday (Aug. 20).
The second Stratton-Barwick game was moved from its planned date tonight because many players being unavailable due to their participation in a pair of major fastball tournaments in the U.S. this weekend.
Sight & Sound, with a few players added in from other league teams, began play today against Meister Dairy from Wisconsin at the 2015 North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) ‘A’ World Series in Moline, Ill.
The score was unavailable at press time.
A victory will put the Wolves into a second-round game against Grumpy’s (Iowa), while a loss will drop them into the losers’ bracket and have them back on the field tomorrow at 8 a.m.
Meanwhile, a group of players from the district competing as the Northwestern Ontario Juniors will start play tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. against Young Bucks (California) in Pool B action at the 2015 NAFA Men’s 23 & Under World Series in Moline.
The Juniors will also play Mid American Advertising (Illinois) tomorrow at 9:15 p.m. and complete their pool play against Eggen 23’s (Arizona) on Saturday at noon.