It was a miracle finish for the Burnaby Minor AAA Braves baseball team in part to the spirit of a little boy.
Down 13-7 entering the seventh and final inning at the B.C. AAA bantam baseball championship to host Rutland, Burnaby Braves head coach Parker Kynoch played his trump card.
"We're like little Devins. We're not going away," Kynoch told his players, referencing player Justin Gadey's younger brother Devin, who had been a constant hanger-on around the Braves' dugout all season long.
It made the Burnaby Minor players laugh in the midst of a seemingly insurmountable deficit.
"He (Kynoch) told us to believe. We were like Burnaby Devins who never go away. We're like him. It was a smart move because we play a lot better when we're relaxed and not uptight and tense," said Burnaby second baseman and hero of the game Michael Van Hombeeck.
With the score level at 13-13, with one man on base and two men out, the Notre Dame student smacked a two-and-one pitch over the centre field fence for the game-winning RBI.
"It was just amazing. It doesn't feel real," said Van Hombeeck, who along with D.J. Hunt and Josh Wray were the only second-year players on last season's young Braves team.
That team won only nine starts in just its second year in the AAA division last season.
"We didn't have high expectations but the coaching was unexpectedly great and then it just clicked," Van Hombeeck said.
The team finished fourth overall in league play, just one game behind runners-up Victoria and North Delta. The Vancouver Mounties ran away with the season title with a 33-3 record.
Byron Prasad started the seventh-inning rally with a leadoff base hit.
Brendon Diu knocked in two runs with a double and Keno Magano launched a towering two-run home run to get the rally going.
Sean Coulson then cranked a solo dinger, his second of the game, and soon after, Hunt, a Burnaby Mountain product, smacked a seeing-eye single past the third base and short stop to put the tying run on base.
Michael Spencer, who had come up big with key runs in two tournament wins earlier this season, cashed in pitch runner Justin Gadey from second with a base hit to right field that just stayed fair.
That brought up Van Hombeeck.
"It was a no-doubter," Kynoch said of the game-winning blast. "I just remember seeing the ball going over the fence. I was jumping as high as I could.
"I looked back and saw Taylor (Ginnetti) and Alex (Bott) coming with a cooler of Gatorade. But I just let them pour it over my head. It's probably one of the best feelings in my life.
"It was a pretty special moment and a very special group of kids. It honestly feels like magic. I still have tingles when I tell the story."
Josh Wray of Burnaby was arguably the Braves tournament MVP. The all-purpose Burnaby North slugger had a .650 batting average through seven games, including 11 runs scored and seven steals. Eight of his 11 RBI went for extra bases, including five doubles, one triple and two home runs.
Ryan Mew threw four-and-a-third innings in the final game in his third appearance on the mound in the tournament.
The Braves lost 16-8 to Vancouver in earlier pool play, but came back to win a tiebreaker 5-2 over the Mounties. In that game, Gadey pitched a complete outing, allowing just three hits and striking out nine for the win.
In the semifinal, Taran Kingsbury went five-and-two-third innings for a 12-7 win over Victoria and a spot in the B.C. final against Rutland.
"To get up in that last inning they truly did believe in each other, and that was the difference," Kynoch added.
For the Braves coach, it really began in the sixth inning, when Coulson took a questionable call first strike and looked rattled.
The two talked during a time out, and when Coulson stepped back into the batter's box the Burnaby North student sent the very next pitch over the fence with a three-run dinger that closed the deficit to 8-7.
"When that happened, I knew we weren't going away," Kynoch said. "We got a few breaks, and you could really feel it was a really special weekend. You couldn't have writtten it out better as a fairy tale. It was indescribable," Kynoch added.
The Braves will now represent B.C. at the Canadian bantam championships in Vaughn, Ont., beginning Aug. 18.