What a season it's been for the Elmwood Giants, and what a way to end it, seizing the Manitoba Junior Baseball League championship with a wild walk-off win.
The Giants rode a thrilling ride all the way to the seventh and final inning against the St. Boniface Legionaires on Thursday night, where an RBI smack from rookie outfielder Miguel Letain sealed the 10-9 win. With that, the Giants claimed game four to take the best-of-five championship series 3-1. They did it on home turf, too.
It was a wild and woolly game, as an early pile of errors gave way to a burst of offence from both sides. The teams traded boo-boos early, with both squads grabbing bags on wild pitches and dropped balls. They traded leads, they attacked hard -- and though the Legionaires kept looking ready to force a game five, the Giants never lost sight of their prize.
"Honestly, every time we got back in the dugout after we'd just given up the lead, the mood kind of dropped a little bit, but then we'd get right back at it," Letain said, after the game. "Get some runners on, start cashing 'em in. That was probably the craziest game I've ever been in."
The Legionaires came into the tilt hungry to force a game five, having won their first match of the series on Wednesday night. They struck fast, opening the scoring in the first inning after 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 that drove outfielder Dylan Partridge home. Then -- oh, how do we put this lightly -- all heck broke loose, as the teams traded leads and smacked the ball all over the field. Through the third, fourth and fifth innings, the teams would score 13 runs between them, trading the lead several times.
The Legionaires carried a 9-7 lead into the seventh and final frame. Giants reliever Tyler Townsend kept them stuck there, striking out one and allowing just one hit in the top of the inning and keeping his team's hopes alive.
Then, the Legionaires handed the Elmwood squad their shot at redemption.
St. Boniface kicked off the bottom of the seventh by walking Giants outfielder Brett Riffel, then they walked catcher Drew Allan. With the tying run already on the diamond, Meidema also walked to load the bases. Shortstop Tony Ingram swatted out an RBI single to load the bases up again. Then a pitch struck second baseman Matt Smith square in the back and let the tying run jog home.
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 land far enough to score the winning run. Cue the Gatorade and the championship.
"I almost calmed down in that bat, compared to the rest of the season," Letain said. "It felt great."