The Alaska team is history. Defending champion El Dorado lasted a mere four games. The final week of the National Baseball Congress World Series final week begins without two of its traditional favorites.
The Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters, NBC champions in 2006 and 2008, came close to hugging out a loss, packing up and saying goodbye to teammates.
Then the Foresters struck for two runs in the ninth to tie the Derby Twins on Sunday afternoon at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Michael Ratterree's two-run home run in the 10th gave the Foresters a 5-4 win in an elimination game.
"This would have been way too early for us," Ratterree said. "We're good enough to win it. We've just got to stay in it."
Derby starter Garrett Groom and left fielder Garrett Bayliff, a sophomore at Wichita State, almost ruined that plan. Groom, a graduate of Missouri Southern, pitched six gritty innings, allowing one run on five hits and striking out six. Bayliff's two-run triple in the seventh inning put Derby up 3-1.
Fast forward a few big hits, and Foresters manager Bill Pintard stood in front of his team and yelled "I am so proud."
"Derby, boy, they played us tooth and nail," Pintard said. "They're a class organization."
The Foresters were down to their final two outs against Derby closer Tyler Smith when they started their comeback. Santa Barbara's Shane Kroker poked a single to left field to score two runs and tie it 3-all. In the 10th, Jeff McVaney led off with a double. Ratterree blasted a ball to left-center to break the tie.
"He got ahead of me with a couple fastballs," Ratterree said. "He threw an offspeed pitch, kind of middle-in. Luckily, I got a good piece of it."
The Twins scored a run in the bottom in the bottom of the inning before stranding a runner at first.
Foresters starter Tim Kelley, a senior at WSU, matched Groom in the early innings. He gave up one run and struck out eight in five innings.
"When we give him the ball, I can go get the sports page, read it and check on him in about five or six innings," Pintard said. "He's always going to be prepared to pitch."
Outlaw style _ The traditional rally routine is to turn the cap inside-out, or perhaps sideways. College players often beg for a rally in the dugout, hoping to switch momentum by switching the look of their lids.
The Foresters use the rally bandit, and apparently it works just as well. When trailing in the late innings, players take off their caps, fold in the back and stuff the brim in the top of their shirt. The cap covers their mouth, producing a bandanna effect.
The rally bandit.
"That's our team version of the rally caps, and it's been working for us," Ratterree said.
Like the flat-brim look, this trend appears to start in California. The Forresters credited pitcher Jesse Meaux, from Cal-Santa Barbara, with popularizing the rally bandit.
"I've seen some crazy rituals before, but not that one," Kroker said. "We've come back at least five or six times this year, and this game just proves it."
Almost a double play _ The Twins eliminated defending champion El Dorado 6-2 late Saturday night. They came within two outs of knocking out the 2008 champions Santa Barbara on Sunday afternoon.
Derby's bullpen will take some of the blame after giving up two runs in the ninth and two more in the 10th.
Derby coach Jason Santangelo pointed out the bats needed to do a little more. In the fourth inning, outfielder Ryan Jones popped up a bunt with a runner on first and no outs. In the fifth, Bayliff struck out looking with runners on second and third and one out. Jimmy Howick did the same to end the inning. In the ninth, the first two Twins reached base. Three batters failed to advance them.
"We had chances to execute and do some things to score some runners," Santangelo said. "That kind of thing happens every now and then. You just hope it doesn't happen too often."
Memories L-D _ Kreed Kurtz is an out-of-towner who grew up with the NBC. He served as bat boy for the St. Joseph (Mo.) Saints when that team made several trips to Wichita in the late 1990s.
He came back as a player for the Nevada Griffons three years ago. This summer, he catches for the St. Joseph Mustangs, completing the journey from wide-eyed youngster to one of the men in uniform.
"It was a huge deal," he said. "We got to run out in front of all those people. Playing on the turf, we thought that was the greatest thing."
The Saints folded several years ago. The Mustangs started play in 2009.
"I always thought it would be cool to play for the Saints," Kurtz said. "We looked up to them like they were big-leaguers. We're told every day how the little kids look up to us."
Recaps _ Play Ball Sports (Colo.) eliminated the San Diego Waves 9-6 early Sunday morning. First baseman Ty Barkell homered and doubled and drove in three runs for the winners.
* The San Diego Stars run-ruled the Austin (Texas) Gold Sox 12-1 in five innings on Sunday morning in an elimination game. Left fielder Adam Bies hit a grand slam in the fourth inning.
* Sedalia (Mo.) eliminated the Kenai (Alaska) Peninsula Oilers 5-3 early Sunday afternoon. Nate Ring doubled and homered and Luke Voit homered for the Bombers.
San Diego Stars 12 vs. Austin Gold Sox 1, Austin eliminated.
Sedalia (Mo.) Bombers 5, Kenai (Alaska) Peninsula Oilers 3, Kenai eliminated.
Derby Twins vs. Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters 5, Derby Twins 4 (10), Derby eliminated.
Liberal BeeJays 7, St. Joseph (Mo.) Mustangs 6
Seattle Studs vs. Denver Cougars
Gunnison (Colo.) Colts vs. Play Ball Sports (Colo.)