Jun 25, 2017 - By Scott Akanewich, Sports EditorDespite falling behind early by six runs, the Halos fought back to make it a one-run game.
Friday's championship game at Riverton Babe Ruth Field played out in an all-too-familiar fashion for one side and a starkly different one for the other.
All season, the Angels have been a close-but-no-cigar club, with every single one of their defeats on the campaign being of the single-run variety.
On the other hand, the Braves had steamrolled the competition with a powerful blend of potent offense and pinpoint pitching in easily dispatching their opponents game after game.
When the Braves scored three runs in each of the first two frames in Friday's contest to take a quick 6-0 lead, it seemed as if one of those trends would continue.
However, by game's end, it was the other pattern which held to form in an 8-7 Braves victory and with it the league championship.
For the Angels, it was once again oh, so close.
In fact, after falling behind by six runs, the Angels outscored the Braves by an 8-3 margin over the course of the final five innings.
Braves starter Vincent Brown struck out a pair of Angels in the top of the first, sandwiched around an Aquilo Friday single and stolen base, which left him stranded on second as Lucas Engle went down on strikes to end the threat.
Friday then took the mound for the Halos in the bottom half, struck out Braves leadoff man Konnor Gaston and it seemed as if a pitcher's duel was in the offing.
But, Tyler McKiernan doubled to right, followed by RBI singles by Kaden DeWitt and Brown and just like that, it was 3-0 in favor of the home team with still only one out.
Tryston Truempler drew a walk, which brought Ricky Hoffman to the plate with runners on first and second with the Braves set to blow the game wide open early.
But, Friday struck Hoffman out, then induced a dribbler off the bat of Braeden Cash in front of the plate, which catcher Trey Draper quickly pounced on and threw to first for the third out.
Crisis averted -- temporarily.
Following another goose egg by Brown in the top of the second, the Braves plated three more markers in their half, as they loaded the bases before back-to-back Angels errors allowed runs to score for a 6-0 advantage.
However, that was when the Halos began their fightback.
Orion Bell and Draper were both granted free passes by Brown to open the top of the third for Cameron Schoening, who hit into a fielder's choice, moving Bell to third, leaving runners at the corners with Friday stepping in.
The lefty worked a one-out walk to load the bases for Engle, who popped out to Hoffman at third for the second out.
But, just as it seemed Brown and the Braves would escape the inning unscathed, Skyler Soule waited out a full-count walk to force home a run and a wild pitch with Kameron Murfitt at the plate allowed Schoening to scamper home and it was 6-2 once Murfitt fanned to end the frame.
Despite the drama, the Braves were still in control of the game, taking a four-run lead into the fifth, as neither squad scored in the fourth.
In the top of the fifth, Brown's race for the day was run, as the lanky right-hander reached his limit of 95 pitches and was replaced on the mound by DeWitt.
With runners on second and third, Engle smashed a ground ball to first baseman Brown, who had swapped spots on the diamond with DeWitt, with the ball misplayed for an error which allowed Friday to score, reducing the gap to 6-3 as the inning ended.
Just as Brown had run out of bullets in the top of the inning, Friday was also out of ammunition in the bottom half, as he also hit the 95-pitch mark and was replaced by Draper.
Cash chased home a pair to make it an 8-3 game as the Angels came to bat in the top of the sixth.
Rylan Koehn reached on a base-on-balls, followed by Bell being hit by a DeWitt offering and a Draper walk to load the bases with one out.
Schoening then walked to force home a run, bringing Friday to the plate with the diamond still full of Halos.
An RBI groundout by Friday made it 8-5 and a Draper steal of home with Engle at the plate produced an 8-6 contest.
Draper then retired the side in order in the bottom of the sixth, getting McKiernan and DeWitt on a pop-up and line drive, respectively, before striking out Brown to end the inning.
What followed was the kind of grandstand finish the Angels were accustomed to, but was unfamiliar territory for the Braves.
Murfitt was hit by a pitch and advanced to third on a double by Koehn, which brought the tying run to the plate in Eli Gard, who grounded back to DeWitt for an RBI, as Murfitt scored to make it 8-7.
With Koehn on third, only 90 feet from deadlocking the game and Bell at the plate with two outs, the Angels were once again in their familiar single-run situation.
Fortunately for the Braves, form held true as it had all season for the Angels, as Bell struck out to end the game and the season for both sides, with the Braves pouring out of the home dugout to celebrate the league crown.
For the Angels, they were left to play the role of bridesmaids once again.
Angels 0 0 2 0 3 2 1 -- 8
Braves 3 3 0 0 2 0 x -- 9
Angels - Draper, 0-2, 2 BB; Schoening, 1-2, 2 BB; Friday, 2-2, 2 BB; Engle, 1-4; Soule, 0-2, 2 BB; Murfitt, 0-2, BB, HBP; Koehn, 1-2, 2B, 2 BB; Gard, 1-4; Bell, 0-2, BB, HBP.
Braves - Gaston, 1-3; McKiernan, 1-3; DeWitt, 2-4; Brown 2-4; Truempler, 0-1, BB, HBP; Hoffman, 0-2; Cash, 1-3, 2B; Moore, 0-3; Heidenreich, 0-2, BB; LeClair, 1-1, 2 BB.
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