WEST BEACH - West Torrens has claimed its first South Australian Baseball League Championship Series in 10 years after claiming a thrilling 5-4 win over Port Adelaide at Diamond Sports with Nathan van der Linden named MVP.
Pitching in all three games, van der Linden had six strikeouts in six innings after inheriting a 4-0 deficit, while he also hit a game trying two-run double in the sixth. Ryan Muggleton proved to be the late hero for the Eagles as well, blasting the go-ahead home run in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Speaking after the game, West Torrens manager Tyrone Hambly had nothing but praise for his side.
"It was unreal," he said, "We used pretty much every player this weekend and everyone we put out there did their job and everyone got after it. Just real proud to be a part of something like this, the boys have worked really hard for it.
Early honours went to Port Adelaide as their bats fired in the first two innings, putting up a 4-0 lead in the blink of an eye. Dylan Brammer and Alex Carter continued to plague the Eagles' pitchers and when Yusuke Inoguchi hit a sacrifice fly the floodgates looked like they would open.
However, Tom Fiebig rallied to leave runners stranded, but the second inning proved to be just as tough when Nick Vasic mashed a RBI triple, scoring 15-year-old Brodie Arriola all the way from first.
Carter added another run with his RBI single and in the blink of an eye Todd Langman pushed it out to 4-0 with another hit.
Having put on an eight-run inning on Saturday, there was plenty of belief in the Eagles side and when Jakub Vojak singled in the third they finally strung together a rally. Jordan McArdle's looping RBI single was the start of a long battle, with Torey Williams making it 4-2 on the back of four straight hits.
With the rally, West Torrens put in its cleanest game of the series and their fighting spirit was clear.
"We've been through a lot both on and off the field and we've always said we ain't done yet, that we have a bigger picture to keep our eyes on the prize and we did," Hambly said.
"It's just guys that have wanted this for so long. To see guys like van der Linden and Mugsy [Muggleton] come up with a big hit made me smile after seeing them stick through the tough times."
Port Adelaide was not giving up, however, and they owned left field as Vasic smacked another double out there and the base runners continued to push. However, van der Linden rallied in one of his best games yet, cleaning up experienced hitters.
The pace of the game slowed down as he and Langman battled on the mound and defense took control, before van der Linden's two-run single in the sixth brought home Sam McGarry and Jared Kempf, tying up the game.
A scoreless seventh followed and while Langman was impressive in his eight innings, striking out three, he could not match the skill of van der Linden who kept the likes of Brammer quiet.
If a strikeout of Brammer ending the top of the eighth was bad enough for Port Adelaide, Ryan Muggleton blasted a first-pitch homer moment later for a 5-4 lead and suddenly West Torrens was in control.
Having turned the match on its head, Steve O'Connor earned the save with a 1-2-3 ninth inning and the Eagles were soaring and the Magpies stunned.
With Hambly and his team celebrating, it was a culmination of years of hard work which has set up West Torrens for a bright future, although the team are focused on celebrating the present.
"Three years ago we had a team meeting with the older guys and this was always our plan - to have A-Grade and B-grade playing finals," Hambly said.
"We've worked hard and been through a lot and we got there. I can't be more happy than with how the boys went on the field."