By Jay-Dell Mah
In an exciting final to an immensely successful tournament, the Creston D-Bags climaxed an improbable run for the title with a 19-18 victory over the Kelowna Browns, the defending champions, to capture the Nakusp Summer Splash Slo-Pitch Tournament during the August holiday weekend.
It was the D-Bags seventh straight playoff game and fifth contest of the day.
Creston had lost to the Browns in the first round of the double-knockout playoff program.
Browns had rebounded from a 19-14 deficit with four runs in the bottom of the seventh and final inning to trail by just one. The Kelowna club was coming off a semi-final game in which they trailed by four in the bottom of the 7th and scored five times to walk off with the win.
With Creston ahead 19-18 and the Browns with runners on second and third and two outs, D-Bags third sacker Radersma snagged a sharp grounder and made the long throw to first to end the tense roller-coaster ball game.
In the top of the first, the D-Bags roared out of the chute as Chris Ferguson led off with a double, Ryley Ducharme followed with a three-bagger, Tina Renz singled and Chris Ducharme cracked a homer. 4-0 Creston.
That lead was short-loved as the Browns, with Garrett “Proby” Wiese and T.J. Wyatt slugging homers, scored five in their half of the first.
Neither team scored in the second, but Creston got a pair in the third, and the Browns added four. 9-6 for Kelowna.
D-Bags regained their stroke in the fourth with a pair of home runs, from Ryley Ducharme and Jeff Radersma to jump into a 11-9 lead. The Browns replied with three, helped by a homer by Wyatt to move ahead 12-11.
Creston outscored the Browns 3-1 in the fifth to take the lead 14-13.
In the sixth, Devon Howarth’s homer highlighted a big five-run outburst as the D-Bags extended their lead to 19-13 and held the Browns to a solo homer by Cory Warner.
D-Bags went down 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh and final inning facing the 2018 and 2019 champions, in the last two tournaments held before the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of events in 2020 and 2021.
Mike “Bucky” Bucknell led the late charge for the Browns reaching with a single. Another followed, and another. You could hear the groans and feel the anxiety in the Creston dugout as slugger Garrett “Proby” Wiese cracked another hit to make it 19-17 with just one out. Two more hits and the Browns were just a run back, 19-18, with runners on second and third.
Jimmy Stewart flied out to right field for the second out. With the tying and winning runs just steps from home, T.J. Wyatt, already with a pair of homers, rapped a hard grounder down to third and Radersma calmly nabbed the rocket and fired across the diamond to hand the championship to the D-Bags.
It was their 11th game of the tournament and fifth of the day, playing at 8 and 11 a.m., then at 12:20, 2 and the final at 3:30 p.m.
The tourney was played in mid-30s weather, so hot that the teams adopted a hit-and-sit rule for homeruns. The batters would not be forced to run the bases in the heat, but go right to the dugout.
The event featured 18 teams from Nakusp, Kelowna, Abbotsford, Vernon, Cherryville, Spokane, Castlegar, Revelstoke, Fruitvale, Penticton, Golden, and Creston.