The legendary New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra once said, "the game ain't over, 'til it's over." Those simple words rang true again Friday night in the West Virginia 13-year old Babe Ruth all-stars state tournament played at Harry Lewin Field in Beckley.
After missing on two previous opportunities for a big inning, the Elkins all-stars rallied with five runs in the top of the seventh inning to defeat the Beckley all-stars, 11-8 in game one of the best-of-three-game series.
"I will be honest with you, some of that was on me," Elkins head coach Chris Broughton said of the missed opportunities. "I may be too aggressive on the bases, but, I am old school. I want my team to put the ball in play, make something happen and we are going to challenge them. (Beckley) came through a couple of times, but this team never died tonight. It was a total team effort."
Down two runs with three outs left, Broughton had faith his team would go down fighting.
"I told them they had played with a lot of heart, but, lets just pick it up one more step," the Elkins coach explained. "Everybody has it in them, including me, lets do this. Lets do this for back home. You could see it in their eyes, they wanted to come back and win this game."
Elkins loaded the bases in the seventh with one out on two walks and a single before third baseman Andrew D'Angelo tied the game with a solid single. The third walk of the inning loaded the bases again and Beckley pulled the infield in to cut down the runner at home.
Beckley got the ground ball it wanted, but it was not sharply hit, allowing the runner to barely beat the throw to the plate for a 9-8 lead. Mason Kisamore's fielder's choice was the second out of the inning, but, it too brought home a run.
Elkins added the final run of the inning on an RBI-single from Cole Shreve for the 11-8 advantage.
Matthew Pratt had come on for Elkins in the fifth inning to quiet the Beckley bats. He saved his best inning for when his team needed it most.
"We have a pitch count and he only had seven pitches left going into the last inning," Broughton said. "He had to stay under 45 pitches if I wanted to throw him (Saturday). I told him if he was throwing strikes, I was leaving him out there. He got to 44 pitches and I called timeout. He told me he could get the job done tonight and that was what I wanted to here. It was his game and he got it done."
Beckley went down swinging three straight times, but on the third batter, Pratt's pitch in the dirt got away, allowing the runner to reach first base. A walk to the next batter gave Beckley life with the tying run coming to plate.
Pratt sealed the game by picking the runner off first base.
"I have only had them for two weeks, so it is a credit to our local league back home that these kids want to play baseball," Broughton said.
Beckley opened the game by scoring two runs in each of the first three innings and kept Elkins in check with key defensive plays and solid pitching at key times.
"I was very proud of my team tonight. We fought and won every inning, but the last one," Beckley head coach Kevin Tolliver said. "Several innings, (Elkins) had runners at second and third with one out, or no outs and we worked ourselves out of it with one run or less."
Along with his solid pitching performance, Pratt had three hits on the night and two RBI. Hunter Crist led Beckley with three hits and Cole Cunningham drove in three runs on the night.
Game two will be played today at 1 p.m. Elkins needs one victory to win the state championship, while Beckley will need a doubleheader sweep today to be state champions.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @Rusman1981