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Dusty Puckett finally got the opportunity to swing at some pitches.
Fortunately for the Cubs, Puckett didn’t forget what that felt like. The all-star pitcher and shortstop ripped two home runs over the fence and his three RBI powered the Cubs to a 16-11 win in the Anderson County Little League championship.
“He hasn’t been pitched to in four, maybe five games,” Cubs manager Scott Boone said. “They just walked him.”
After belting out a league leading 13 home runs during the regular season, Puckett was getting used to seeing opposing teams give him the four-pitch intentional walk approach.
On Saturday night Puckett was finally pitched to and responded with two home runs over the fence, including one well past the first line of cars in the outfield.
“I was confident,” Puckett said. “I thought Chip (Chambers, the Yankees manager) would walk me, I was surprised that he pitched to me. But I was confident when I went up to the plate.”
The Cubs kept their bats hot after scoring 15 runs in their semifinal game against the Red Sox two days earlier. And it wasn’t just Puckett producing runs for the Cubs, it was a team-effort Saturday with runs scored in each inning including one RBI from Levi Wilson, his first of the season.
The Cubs broke from the gates early Saturday night.
Standing at third base after initially being walked, Puckett stole home on a wild pitch to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first. Dylan Harper then hit a single to right field that scored Jordan Adams for the game’s second run. With the bases loaded, Brandan Leach stood patient at the plate and drew an RBI-walk, followed by a sacrifice by Ryan Clark for the inning, and game’s fourth run.
Leading 4-1 entering the top of the second, and Zane McCoy standing on first, Puckett found a pitch he liked.
“I thought the centerfielder was going to catch it,” Puckett said. “I thought it was a little pop up to the outfield.”
It was hard enough though, and carried just over the fence in center field for a two-run home run.
Later in the inning, with the bases loaded and two outs away, Ryan Clark hit a two-RBI, single to centerfield scoring Dylan Boone and Caleb Boyles.
The Yankees wouldn’t back down so easily in the championship game.
Yankees third baseman Kyler Campbell got it started in the bottom of the second for the Yankees, scoring from third on a throw back to the pitcher that got away. With the bases loaded and one out away, Evan Flora hit a two-run double scoring Brandon Boggs and Cannon Beasley. The Yankees would tack on one more run before Jordan Adams took the mound for the Cubs.
At the top of the third, Puckett stepped up to the plate with one out already away. Again, Puckett saw pitches thrown his way, but this time he didn’t leave any doubt as to whether the ball would leave the park. Puckett turned on a pitch and hammered it well over the fence at Davenport Field for a solo home run to give the Cubs a 9-5 lead. It was Puckett’s 15th home run of the season and his 11th out of the park.
“I knew it was gone as soon as it left the bat,” Puckett said.
Dylan Boone would add another run for the Cubs with a stand up double that drove in Adams from second base.
On the mound, Adams was in control in the bottom of the third, striking out two, including the inning’s final batter with runners on the corners.
Each team tacked on two runs in the fourth inning. After the Cubs brought in one more run in the fifth, the Yankees rallied to make the championship very interesting.
Boggs started the inning with a single, followed by five straight walked batters to bring the Yankees within three and no outs registered.
That’s when Puckett made his presence felt on the defensive end.
With the bases loaded, Yankees starting pitcher Dillon Harper hit a hard ground ball to Puckett who fielded it, ran over to second base to tag it and gunned over to first to get the speedy Harper. A run scored on the play, but the double play was the turning point for the Cubs in Boone’s eyes.
“That was an amazing play for Dusty to get that ball, tag second and throw him out,” Boone said. “Probably behind Dusty, (Dillon is) one of the fastest players in the league. It was amazing that he got the double play.”
Puckett was walked to lead off the sixth inning with the Cubs’ once seemingly insurmountable lead down to two. Puckett, as he often does, took huge leads off the base following each pitch, tempting the catcher or pitcher to throw to first base to try and get him out. Finally, the Yankees bit and when the throw to first base got away, Puckett took off, advancing all the way to third base. He would later come home on a wild pitch.
When the final out was recorded, fittingly a ground ball to Puckett who calmly jogged over to tag second base for the force out, gloves flew into the air and rejoice was abound at Davenport Field for the Cubs.
“This is awesome,” Boone said. “… It’s a great feeling.”
E-mail Metz Camfield at firstname.lastname@example.org.