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Curry comes up clutch as Blaze win provincial banner
Call him Mr. Clutch.
With the game — and the provincial championship — on the line Dakota Curry delivered, lining a walk-off bases-loaded double to score two runs and send the Langley Blaze to a 4-3 extra-innings victory over the North Shore Twins.
The teams were playing on Monday night at Whalley Stadium in the championship final for the B.C. Premier U18 Baseball League.
“I was looking for a fastball and I just turned on it,” Curry explained the morning after his big hit.
The 17-year-old Curry — who still has one season left with the U18 Blaze — pulled the 0-1 pitch down the right-field line.
“The only thing I was debating was whether it was going to be fair or foul,” he said. “It was close to the line.”
“I was ecstatic,” he said. “It was amazing, just awesome.”
In his first year at the Premier level, Curry had good numbers during the regular season, finishing with a .278 batting average, a .398 on-base percentage, and 18 RBIs. He also had two home runs.
The extra-bases hit scored Mason Verge from third and Kyle McComb from second and sent the jubilant Blaze players sprinting out from the dugout.
It was also Langley’s second straight dramatic extra-innings victory and both times it was Curry who came through in the clutch.
The day before, he belted a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Langley a 4-2 victory against the Victoria Mariners, sending the Blaze through to the championship final.
It also allowed Langley to avenge their only loss at provincials, an opening day 5-0 defeat at the hands of the Twins. In that game, North Shore pitcher Brad Smith was masterful, striking out nine and allowing just a pair of singles.
And Smith was on the mound again for the Twins in the final — their third game of the day — and picked up where he left off, striking out 11 of the 23 Langley batters he faced in the first 5.1 innings.
North Shore led 1-0 when Langley came to bat in the bottom of the sixth and finally got to Smith.
Liam Wyatt’s double scored Mitchell Robinson to tie the score and Wyatt put the team ahead when he scored on a North Shore error.
“It was pretty grim going into the sixth, but we were trying to be upbeat, keep everyone positive,” said Blaze coach Jamie Bodaly.
The Blaze were on one out from victory when the Twins struck to force extra innings.
“I give the kids a lot of credit, it took a lot of resolve to get through the next couple of batters to get out of the inning and re-group,” Bodaly said.
And after North Shore went ahead in the ninth, the coach had a simple message for the team.
“I just said to the guys ‘let’s make this the hardest three outs of the year for these guys, the toughest outs they have ever had to get,” he said.
The Blaze then used ‘small-ball’ for their rally.
Verge got on base with a single and after he stole second, Kyle McComb’s perfect sacrifice bunt not only got Verge to third base, but it also got McComb safely to first. Dayton Wilson’s sacrifice bunt then moved McComb to second and Robinson was intentionally walked to load the bases, setting the stage for Curry’s heroics.
“Our clutch guy Dakota came up and came through for us,” Bodaly said
Cooper Misic earned the win, pitching one inning.
Keltie worked into the sixth inning, allowing just one unearned run while Ryan Braun pitched 2.2 innings, giving up a pair of earned runs.
Bodaly, who said it was pretty sweet to become the first team in league history to win the regular season and provincial title in the same season, was impressed with the Blaze getting contributions all throughout the roster.
“It was a complete team effort; I think we had every guy get in and play in the last two games in some form.”
Had the Blaze lost to Victoria, all five teams would have finished the round-robin portion with identical 2-2 records.
Instead, Langley advanced to Monday’s final with a 3-1 record while Victoria (1-3) was eliminated.
The Vancouver Cannons took second spot in the pool while the host Whalley Chiefs and North Shore played on Monday morning in a tiebreaker game. The Cannons were awarded second on the tiebreaker of allowing the least amount of runs over the four games.
The Twins rallied from a 5-1 deficit to win 9-5 and then edged the Cannons 3-2 in the semifinals. In that game, North Shore was down to their final three outs before scoring three times for the come-from-behind victory.
It set up a showdown between the top two teams during the regular season — Langley was 35-12 while North Shore was 32-12 (neither team was able to complete the full 48-game schedule because of weather).
After losing their opener 5-0, the Blaze recovered to win 8-0 over the Chiefs — Jonathan Keltie, Kristjan Storrie and Dayton Wilson combined on a two-hitter while Mitchell Robinson had a home run, a double and three RBIs — and then beat the Cannons 5-0.
And against Victoria, Kyle Ross went all eight innings, striking out four.
Langley trailed 2-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning before Hayden Jaco’s triple scored Andre Pelletier. Justin Lawrence then singled Jaco to tie things up before Curry’s blast won it.
A handful of members of the Blaze left for Saskatoon on Aug. 5 where they will represent B.C. at the Canada Cup.
Kyle Ross, Hayden Jaco, Brendan Halstrom and Tony Pharand were named to the roster while Cooper Misic was named an alternate.
The competition, for players 17 and under, runs Aug. 6 to 11.
Alyssa O'Dell/Langley Times
Langley Blaze's Hayden Jaco started a rally for his team with an RBI triple against the Victoria Mariners. The hit started a rally which saw the Blaze advance to the B.C. Premier Baseball League championship final with a 4-2 win. Dakota Curry (above) hit a two-run home run against the Mariners to win that game and then came through with a two-run double in a 4-3 extra-innings victory over the North Shore Twins in the championship final.