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Stilly shocks Alderwood with late rally in Tournament of Champions
SNOHOMISH Just when a loss looked inevitable for the Stilly Valley Junior Little League boys team, a late seventh-inning rally sprung them back to life against Alderwood.
Four runs in the top half of the seventh inning catapulted them to an important victory in the Tournament of Champions, 10-9. The June 7 game played in Snohomish saw both teams battle back and forth for supremacy, before Stillys timely hitting gave them the victory.
Stilly got things started in the second inning as Kramer Spears slugged a two-out double. D.J. Smith followed with single to put runners on the corners. Kyle Bailey walked to load the bases. Marcus McKenzie then stroked a clean single into center field to score the games first two runs.
In the third inning, Nic Gaston walked with one out to start another scoring threat for Stilly. Brandon Allen doubled over the head of the left fielder to score Gaston. It gave Stilly a 3-0 lead headed into the third inning.
Up until that point, Stillys pitcher Kyle Bailey held Alderwood at bay with an assortment of breaking pitches. The long-legged Bailey impressed onlookers with his high leg kick and tricky delivery. He fooled on Alderwood batter badly on a curveball causing the batter to duck out of the way of a pitch that ended up crossing over the heart of the plate. Bailey gave way to the little league pitch count rule in the third inning, a rule set up to preserve young arms by limiting the number of pitches they can throw on consecutive days. His replacement Tucker DeGraffenreid came in to pitch the bottom half of the third.
DeGraffenreid struggled with his control early, walking two Alderwood batters before conceding a two run double. DeGraffenreid then settled in to strike out a crucial batter and maintain the 3-2 edge for Stilly.
In the fourth, Stilly plated two more runs behind an RBI double from Marcus McKenzie and an RBI single from Nathan Shortt. Leading 5-2 headed to the bottom half of the fourth, Stilly looked in good position to get another win. Judging by Stillys 19-1 regular season record, as well as their 3-1 mark in TOC play the guys werent used to losing. But Alderwood would not go down easily, and in the bottom half of the fourth they scored two more runs to get within 5-4.
After holding Stilly scoreless in the top half of the fifth, Alderwood got the bats going again in their half of the inning. Three more runs crossed the plate to give them a 7-5 lead and signal danger.
Stilly heard the wake up call and in the sixth inning drew closer to Alderwood. Nic Gaston drilled his second RBI single of the night to get them back within one run, 7-6. After a well pitched bottom of the inning by DeGraffenreid, Stilly looked poised to put more pressure on the Alderwood team.
The tension rose in the seventh inning as D.J. Smith led off for Stilly with a walk. Kyle Bailey then walked to put runners on first and second with no outs. DeGraffenreid helped his own cause as he singled to score Smith. Nathan Shortt came through in the clutch with an RBI single of his own. Nic Gaston then hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score Bailey. An alert DeGraffenreid also scored on the play as an errant throw to third base went wildly into left field foul territory. When the dust settled, Stilly led 10-7 going into the bottom half of the seventh.
The game was far from over. Alderwood would not die easily and managed to strike back for two runs before putting runners on the corners with two outs. The tense crowd held its collective breath but that was all the scoring Alderwood could manage as DeGraffenreid struck out the final batter of the game on a 2-2 pitch. The team celebrated wildly near the dugout after another exciting victory.