Eric Dolence hit a go-ahead grand slam in the top of the seventh inning and the Polson-based Mission Valley Mariners rallied from a four-run deficit to beat the Glacier Twins 6-4 and win the Montana/Alberta American Legion Western district championship on July 22.
Seeded sixth in the eight-team field, Mission Valley (25-20) won its first three games of the double-elimination tournament at Lee Gehring Field in Libby and had a chance to clinch the title on Sunday when the Twins blanked the Mariners 5-0, setting up Monday’s decisive contest.
For the first six innings of Monday’s finale the game looked much the same as the day prior, with Glacier’s Zach Veneman completely in control on the mound and the Twins plating three runs in the bottom of the sixth to extend their lead to a seemingly comfortable 4-0. But Mission Valley caught fire in the seventh and final frame as five of the first six batters singled, knocking in two runs and bringing Dolence to the plate. On an 0-2 pitch with the bases loaded and one out, Dolence took Veneman deep and the Mariners kept Glacier off the scoreboard in the bottom of the inning, stranding the tying runs on base.
Remarkably, Monday’s comeback was not the most impressive of the tournament for the Mariners against the Twins. On Friday in a second-round meeting, Glacier led 7-1 entering the seventh before Mission Valley scored nine times to win 10-7. The Mariners routed the top-seeded Bitterroot Red Sox 11-0 on Saturday to reach the championship round.