by Jason Hanes
Ethan Garner's walk-off three-run homer with two out in the bottom of the sixth capped a incredible rally as Five-Star Tigers 13u came back from a 12-0 deficit to defeat Dirtbags 14-13 on Friday afternoon to move on in the winner's bracket at the Triple Crown U.S. Club Nationals.
Down 1-2 in the count, Garner battled back to fill the count for a payoff pitch. "With it 3-2, I was looking for a fastball to hit. He threw it down, so I swung and hit it," Garner said. "It hit really good."
The Tigers trailed 12-0 after the top of the third, but momentum started to swing the other way in the bottom of the inning. With one out and two men on, Drew Burress connected on a three-run blast to left to get Five-Star on the board. "We were down by a lot," Burress said. "I just knew somebody was going to have to do something if we were going to come back and have any chance of winning. I went up there, just trying to keep it down the middle, and it went out."
"That helped to keep the motivation very high to keep playing," Garner added.
The inning wasn't over, though, as four more runs crossed the plate to trim the lead to 12-7. Robert Lane and Brooks Bannon each had two-RBI hits to slice the lead down to five.
"That inning was huge," Garner said. "That really gave us some motivation to finish this game out."
In the fourth, Burress broke out the magic stick again as his second home run to left of the game was a two-run blast to make it 12-9. "[The pitch] was low, and I hit it right in the sweet spot of my bat," Burress said. "I knew right when I hit it, we were going to have a chance to come back. I've probably hit a couple of balls farther, but I've never hit a more important one."
The Dirtbags weren't done scoring yet, as Walker Jenkins cranked a solo home run in the fifth to push the lead back to four 13-9. Five-Star scored a pair in the bottom of the inning, and it looked for a moment that Burress might have given his side the lead with another homer, but his swing turned into a lazy fly to left to end the inning.
The Dirtbags left an insurance run on in the top of the sixth that it would prove to seriously need. The visiting team on the scoreboard nearly got out of the inning after a leadoff walk was followed by two quick outs; however, a single to left would set the stage for the heroics of Garner.
The Dirtbags raced out to an early lead as Shelton Bocook cleared the bases with a grand slam in the first inning. An inning later, Shawn Kitchens ripped a two-run blast to start the scoring in what would prove to be a six-run second. Tyler Parks, Colton Wombles, Ethan Gibson, and Connor Chapman each drove in runs in the frame. Two walks, a balk, and a sacrifice fly helped the Dirtbags score a pair in the third to build what seemed to be an insurmountable lead. Just four innings later, the tide had turned.
While the Dirtbags had to turn around and play again immediately, the Five-Star Tigers now moves on to the winner's bracket final against the Dallas Tigers later this afternoon.
"We've got plenty of pitching left," Burress said of Five-Star's chances. "We've just got to keep the bats going.