The Elmwood Giants couldn’t have written a better way to end their season, seizing the Manitoba Junior Baseball League championship with a wild walk-off win.
The Giants rode a thrilling rollercoaster ride all the way to the seventh and final inning against the St. Boniface Legionaires Thursday night, where an RBI smack from rookie outfielder Miguel Letain sealed a 10-9 win. With that, the Giants took the championship series 3-1, and on home turf, too.
"All the years I’ve been playing and coaching, this by far is the biggest win I’ve ever had," Giants manager Mark Galang said, celebrating on Koskie Field after the match. "This was a great team effort. We pulled through when we needed to, and I couldn’t be happier right now."
Almost from the start, the game was explosive. The momentum swung often, as an early pile of errors gave way to a burst of offence from both teams. They traded gaffes early, with both squads grabbing bags on missed throws, and dropped balls. They traded leads and attacked hard — and though the Legionaires looked ready to force a game five, the Giants never lost sight of their prize.
"The only thing we needed to do to succeed is just cash ‘em in, and the boys cashed ‘em in when we needed to," Galang said. "It’s something we can take to our dying day, pretty much."
The Legionaires struck early, opening scoring in the first inning when catcher Colton Carlow stole second base, scampered to third on a bunt from first baseman Colin Bouchard, and made it home as outfielder Paul Esteves ground into a double-play.
The Giants responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the second, when first baseman Peter Meidema smacked an RBI single. After that, though, all heck broke loose, as the teams blasted out big hits and capitalized on each other’s mistakes.
Through the third, fourth and fifth innings, the teams would score 13 runs between them. The Legionaires took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third, when Carlow’s sacrifice fly scored Wyatt Kemball; the Giants roared back in the bottom of that frame, notching three runs to lift themselves ahead.
Not to be outdone, the St. Boniface squad put up four scores in the top of the fourth, biting on a string of bungled balls to send runners home. But the Giants would grab the lead back again, sending home three runners in the bottom of the fourth, including a booming RBI hit from designated hitter and relief pitcher Tyler Moskalyk, and a two-RBI smack from Giants outfielder Jeff Hotson.
The Legionaires weren’t done, though. In the top of the fifth, St. Boniface designated hitter Brett Harrison walloped out an RBI double deep into center field, and later scored a run of his own in a dirty dive to home. After holding the Giants scoreless in the bottom of the fifth, they added another run in the top of the sixth, an RBI double from Carlow.
But while St. Boniface carried a 9-7 lead into the top of the seventh, Giants reliever Tyler Townsend held them to that, striking out one and allowing just one hit to keep his team’s hopes alive. Then, the Legionaires handed the Giants their shot at redemption.
The St. B squad kicked off the bottom of the seventh by walking three Giants in a row, to put the game-winning run on the bags. Shortstop Tony Ingram swatted out an RBI single to load the bases again, and second baseman Matt Smith took a pitch square in the back to walk in the tying run.
So with that, the final shot fell to Letain, the 17-year-old outfielder in just his first MJBL season. He swung, and watched the ball get down into the outfield to score the championship-winning run. "I almost calmed down in that bat, compared to the rest of the season," Letain said, beaming after the win. "It felt great."
Other heroes for the Giants: In addition to pitching two innings, Moskalyk finished three-for-three on the night, with a walk. Third baseman Adam Nocita was also a rock for the Giants at the plate, going three-for-four with a double.
On St. Boniface’s side, meanwhile, Kemball was three-for-four with a double.