It took a resilient effort out of the No. 1-seeded West Flagstaff Little League Black Diamondbacks against the No. 3-seeded WFLL Brick D-backs in the losers bracket semifinals of the Flagstaff majors city tournament at Dawson Field Tuesday.
Black avenged an earlier loss to Brick, in which the latter dominated behind a 14-5 win last week to send Black down to the lower end of the tournament bracket.
But on Tuesday, Black withstood a late rally to win 6-5 via walkoff on a close play at home plate.
With the game knotted up 5-all in the bottom of the sixth inning, Black’s Paul Povlsen turned a bunt into a trip to third base by taking advantage of a fielding error at first base.
A pair of batters later -- after Ethan Gappa was walked and Landon Connor struck out -- Povlsen again made a smart baserunning play. Brick’s catcher let a pitch by Canyon Kirkman get past him, allowing Povlsen enough space to beat out a play at the plate and give his team the victory and clinch their spot in the championship round today.
“It’s a great win for these boys, Brick's a heck of a team,” Black manager Darrin Brown said. "They are well-coached and are a bunch of great kids over there, great athletes. We got them during the regular season and they put it on us in this tournament. We were confident in our boys and they came out ready to fight today.”
Now Black gets a chance to become the second team in tourney history to climb out of the losers bracket for a title, hoping to pull off what the WFLL Mets accomplished in 2013.
Brown’s squad jumped ahead early 2-0 on Brick after scoring a run in the first and second innings.
Brick made a quick rally in the third, scoring five runs in the top of the frame to take momentum and a solid lead halfway through the game behind a run of three straight at-bats that produced runs. Kirkman got the surge going with a two-run double followed by an RBI single by Logan Weidinger and then a two-RBI double by Thomas Guinan.
Black answered the burst quickly behind a solo home run by William Akens, who took the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence to cut the deficit to 5-3 in the bottom of the third.
After Black kept Brick from getting anything in the top of the fourth, Black tied the game at 5-all behind an RBI single by William Carpenter and a sacrifice RBI by Chase Brown to set up the sixth-inning magic.
Carpenter started the day on the mound for Black, going five innings while allowing three hits and two earned runs. Carpenter struck out 11 and walked three. Akens, who came in to close the game out late, finished his day on the mound with one hit given up, three strikeouts recorded and zero walks issued in one inning pitched.
As a team, Black registered five hits on Brick. Carpenter led Black with two hits and one RBI.
Black will face WFLL Gray with a shot at the city tournament title, but must win twice against the undefeated Gray D-backs -- a challenge that Brown is confident his team is ready for.
“It’s going to be a battle tomorrow, it’s definitely going to have be some good coaching involved,” Brown said. “Rory Faust has done a great job with his boys over there, they are a talented group and are well-coached by Rory. So, we got a couple quality pitchers and we’re going to go after them and put our best foot forward.”
First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at Dawson Field with the second game, if needed, set for 8 p.m.