Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart – Island Sports News (ISN) – A Sean Gramlich grand slam home run propelled the Carnarvon Riverdawgs to a 5-run 5th inning and a come from behind 7-4 win over the Esquimalt Mariners in the Greater Victoria Baseball Association's (GVBA) Pee Wee Championship Tuesday night at Carnarvon Park in Victoria.
The home team Riverdawgs found themselves in trouble early in the game, as Esquimalt's Josh Walker and Jason Willow led off the game with back-to-back hits off of Carnarvon starter Nick Downer and both came around to score to give the Mariners an early 2-0 lead.
The Riverdawgs would threaten in the bottom of the inning, as Joe Stafford-Veale led off with a solid single off of Mariner starter Willow and would move around to third following a couple of walks that loaded the bases. That would be as far as he would get though, as Willow would end the threat with a big strikeout to keep the lead 2-0.
The 'Dawgs were wishing they had capitalized in that inning, because for the next three innings, Willow was unhittable, striking out the side in the 2nd and 3rd innings, and striking out two more in the 4th. Willow's only blemish in those three innings were two walks in the 4th, one of which came in to score on an RBI ground out by Hugh Davidson to get the 'Dawgs on the board.
Meantime, the Mariners were giving Willow some additional run support, pushing one across in the 3rd and another in the top of the 4th on a beautifully executed squeeze-play, and after the Carnarvon run in that inning, held a 4-1 lead heading into the 5th.
In the top of the inning, Carnarvon's Downer began the inning by striking out the first two batters, but then gave up a triple to Walker. That was all for Downer, as he was near the Pee Wee maximum daily pitch limit of 75 pitches, and he was removed in favour of lefty reliever Stafford-Veale.
The move paid off well, as Stafford-Veale battled the Mariner's Willow in a classic confrontation of two of each team's top players, with Stafford-Veale winning this one, striking out Willow on three pitches.
That out, plus the fact that Willow also had to come out of the game due to the pitch count limit, gave the Riverdawgs some much needed confidence to start the 5th inning and it paid off big time.
Sebastian Wicke started the rally by drawing a walk from Esquimalt reliever Jack Mulcahy. Jeremy Restall followed this up with a hit and a subsequent throwing error allowed Wicke to score, making it 4-2 Mariners. Another Mariner error would then allow Restall to score and the 'Dawgs had pulled to within one at 4-3.
Mulcahy would continue to struggle and after two more walks and a single loaded the bases, Sean Gramlich launched a 1-0 fastball over the left field fence for a grand slam home run to put the 'Dawgs up 7-4. However because GVBA Pee Wee rules only allow a maximum of 5 runs per inning to be scored, the score reversed back to a 6-4 lead for Carnarvon.
That would still be plenty for the 'Dawgs, as Stafford Veale would get some nice defensive help in the top of the 6th to keep the Mariners off the board, as well as an insurance run in the bottom of the inning, as Downer launched a solo home-run over the right-centre fence to restore the 7-4 lead.
In the top of the 7th, facing the bottom part of the Mariner line-up, Stafford Veal had no trouble at all, striking out the first two batters and getting the third to ground out, preserving the win for the 'Dawgs and giving them the 2012 Pee Wee Championship.