“This is the best feeling in my life,” right fielder Sam Little said on Monday night. “No doubt.”
The over 600 people who witnessed his game-tying home run and heard the sound it made would understand his sentiment. Down 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth, the Cowboys had been flummoxed all night by the Bakersfield pitcher and manager Edison Alvarez. The veteran’s cutters, sliders, and change-ups frustrated Alpine batters, who only had two hits in the first eight innings of game 2 of the Pecos League Championship Series. He also frustrated fans by talking to the umpires more than a regular player would ever be allowed, all while sporting bright blue hair to match his uniform.
For likely the first time all season, Cowboys manager Sean Persky called his team together in the middle innings, and told them they were pressing too much. As Alpine’s hopes of clinching their first title since 2012 dimmed, a swarm of grasshoppers descended on Kokernot Field and began hoping on the ground and flying around the stadium lights. The moon was shrouded by clouds, and lightning flashed in the distance as the crowd experienced all the weird magic of baseball.
Lance Myers connected on a hit to left field to start the ninth inning. Then Little watched the first two pitches go by.
“He was doing a really good job living on the edges,” Sam said about Alvarez. “I felt I got a little lucky, but luck wins games.”
On the next pitch, everything changed as Little struck a deep fly to right. All the tension that had built up among the large home crowd was suddenly released. The dugout exploded as everyone took his turn wailing on Sam as a new ballgame commenced.
With two outs and runners on first and second, Rodney Tennie slapped a grounder toward third off a new pitcher. The Train Robbers’ toss to third base got away, and rolled out of reach. Kellen Hathaway came scrambling home, and pure jubilation ensued in an unforgettable 3-2 win that brought home a championship.
“They’ve had chances. They should have won in 2014 or last year, and it finally balanced out for them,” Pecos League Commissioner Andrew Dunn said after the trophy presentation. “They could have come out flat with 11 days off. They handled Roswell, and beat a good Bakersfield team.”
The playoffs began for Alpine on July 8 when they hosted Roswell for another best-of-three series. The Cowboys had an extended break after their last regular season series was cancelled, but beat the Invaders 8-1 and 13-4 behind strong pitching performances from Jake Waters and Mike D’Eletto. Little collected four hits in game 2.
Bakersfield arrived for the Sunday night opener of the final series in Alpine after taking down High Desert, the team with the best record in the league in 2019. They quickly fell behind 5-0 as RBI from Myers, Mark Traylor, Ely Gallego, and two from Hathaway were all the Cowboys would need.
Jake Binder was solid with six strikeouts over seven innings. He walked only one, and surrendered three runs on six hits.
After the 7-3 victory, most arrived on Aug. 12 expecting to see a coronation in game 2. Pitching with only three days rest for the second time in a row, the Train Robbers’ Alvarez did all he could to keep their season alive until the magic took over. Ryan Hill pitched well like all the Cowboys starters before him.
“There’s something special, not only about this baseball field, this team, this organization, but this entire town,” Persky told the crowd during the on-field celebration. “This championship belongs to the people of Alpine.”
The team of Texans, New Yorkers, Latin Americans, and others played well all season. In the four post season games, Persky put out a lineup filled with players who had spent at least two full seasons in Alpine. Some of them played their final professional baseball game on Tuesday night.
“This year we just had a different type of vibe,” said the third-year Cowboy, D'Eletto. “We never lost a series all year.”