When his team plated its 15th run of the game, and it still wasn’t enough to move ahead, you had to wonder if the rally magic might not last through Chris Courrege’s at-bat in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday at the Triple Crown 13u World Series.
At that point, the Bombers Baseball Club (CA) held a 17-15 edge over the Dallas Tigers-Hernandez with two outs, with the Tigers still clinging to life after an infield error by the Bombers just ahead of Courrege. With a 3-0 count and the greenest of lights to make something happen, Courrege did it with style, launching a home run to left-center field for the final runs in a crazy, chaotic 19-17 victory in Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Even if all this happened in the second bracket (the Tigers were the No. 17 seed after pool play, and the Bombers were No. 25), there was no denying the entertainment value.
“It was a 3-0 count, and I knew he would throw it right down the middle. So, I just hit it,” Courrege said. “I just believe in our team, and we kept fighting.”
To say the least – the Tigers stayed in range with five runs in the third and another in the fourth, pulling within 14-11 and getting impressive relief work from pitcher C.J. Rice, who retired nine in a row before the Bombers touched him for three runs in the sixth.
In their final at-bats, the Tigers got hits from Dominic Reid, Braeden Larsen and Taylor Hervey, and a walk to Rice helped cut the deficit to 17-15. Kai Paul reached on that error, and Courrege closed the discussion with his no-doubt blast.
“We stayed in it as a team and were focused. Our pitchers helped us a lot,” said Larsen, who hit a three-run homer in the third and closed with five RBI. “The past few tournaments, I’ve been struggling a bit, but I tried to go up there with confidence and know I can do this … see the ball hit the bat.
“I said to myself, ‘oh my gosh this is really happening’ (on the grand slam). It was thrilling, it was amazing.”
The Bombers looked to have done enough in the sixth after one-out hits from Jacob Young and Matt Jessen and a walk to Connor Yang. Jessen scored from third on a double steal for the team’s final run, and in the bottom of the sixth Rice walked and scored to again keep the Tigers in the neighborhood.
“You try to put them in the best place to succeed, and it’s just great watching them get that extra hit. When we were down seven runs early, I told the kids to scrap,” said Tigers coach Izaac Yarbrough, who just finished his college career at Auburn and has been coaching club baseball for about four months. “Before Chris went up to bat, I said, this is why we play. Bases loaded, seventh inning, two outs … this is why this is one of the greatest games. It’s great seeing the feedback from the kids.
“C.J. is our centerfielder, our leadoff hitter, and he pitches when needed. A soft-throwing lefty can be really effective; I was one myself in college. He wanted to pitch, and you can’t always teach that, how they will love the moment and be happy to be there.”
For the Bombers, Young had four hits and four RBI; Cole McGowan had two triples and a double and knocked in three runs.