Jul 21, 2017 - By Scott Akanewich, Sports EditorNathan Hutchison hit two home runs, including a game-tying grand slam in a 19-18 come-from-behind victory at the district tournament.
Nathan Hutchison stood at the plate with a bat in his hands with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning during Riverton's game against Cody at the Wyoming District 1 majors Little League baseball tournament in Green River on Thursday down by four runs.
But, in reality, he held more than that.
What the gritty, gutty, eye-black-wearing catcher actually held was a symbol of hope not only for his team, but a community.
An out would mean defeat and relegation to the loser's bracket, creating a much tougher road all the way back to Saturday's championship game.
Hutchison was having none of it.
With a single mighty swing, he sent a 1-0 pitch over the center-field fence to the deepest part of the ballpark in what was ultimately a dramatic 19-18 victory.
However, despite Hutchison's grand slam -- his second home run of the inning -- there was still work to be done, as improbably, Riverton had fought back to equalize after facing a 15-5 deficit entering their final at-bat.
The game began roughly for Riverton, as Cody scored six runs in the top of the first for a quick 6-0 lead, and it certainly looked for all the world as if their longtime nemesis from the north would have it over them once again, just as in the district championship game in last summer's tourney when Cody won a hard-fought 5-3 victory at Saban Little League Complex in the home team's back yard.
Riverton chipped away at the Cody advantage over the next several innings but still trailed by a 9-5 score after four frames.
A scoreless fifth inning was followed by fireworks.
Cody plated six runs in the top of the sixth to take a seemingly-commanding 15-5 lead, leaving Riverton with only three outs to reverse a 10-run deficit to avoid once again playing the role of bridesmaid.
What happened next will go down in history as one of the most wild, unpredictable chain of events in tournament history.
Brodie Dale began the inning with a single, which seemed innocent enough at the time, but ended up being the first flake in what would quickly snowball into an offensive avalanche.
Christopher Reinig reached on an error, bringing Hutchison to the plate for the first time in the inning with runners on first and second before smashing a 2-1 pitch over the center-field fence, bring Riverton back to within 15-8.
Still, though, plenty of work to be done.
Back-to-back doubles off the bats of Uriah Hines and Garrett Raymond produced another marker, then Hunter Hauck singled home Raymond and it was 15-10.
Getting closer and all with still no outs.
Dallon Draper was then hit by a pitch, putting men on first and second again.
But, then it looked as if the fightback would come up short, as Wyatt Frazier struck out, followed by a Derrick DeVries groundout and suddenly there were two outs with the jaws of defeat now gaping wide open for Riverton, as Cody now had one foot in the final.
Or, so it seemed.
Dale had other ideas and put a two-strike pitch in play to third with the potential final out, but it was misplayed for an error, allowing Dale to reach safely, Draper to move up to third and Hauck to cross the plate with the sixth run of the inning.
Reinig then drew a walk to load the bases, setting up Hutchison's heroics and the game was level at 15-15, as Riverton had battled all the way back, sending the contest to extra innings.
But, Cody is still Cody.
Three consecutive singles to open the top of the seventh chased home the go-ahead run, followed by another pair of markers after two outs had been recorded, for an 18-15 Cody lead.
Certainly, the boys in red couldn't mount another charge after having expended so much fight the previous frame.
Or, could they?
Raymond doubled on a 2-2 pitch to open the Riverton seventh, which was followed by a Hauck single, leaving runners at the corners for Draper, who struck out.
Frazier then patiently drew a one-out walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases with one out.
DeVries then banged an RBI single to score Raymond, followed by a Taylor Stevens steal of home to close the gap to 18-17.
Reinig struck out leaving that young man, Hutchison again, striding to the plate with the game again on the line.
Ball one. Ball two. Swing and a miss -- strike one. Foul ball -- strike two.
Down to the last strike and last out, Hutchison came through yet again with a walk-off single to center on a 3-2 pitch, scoring Frazier with the tying run and DeVries with the winner, all in one fell swoop.
Riverton will next face the winner of Friday's Powell-Big Horn game for the championship on Saturday at noon and the top seed out of District 1 at next week's state tournament in Laramie.
Cody 6 1 2 0 0 6 3 -- 18
Riverton 1 2 0 2 0 10 4 -- 19
Cody - Johnston, 4-4, 4 RBI; McLeod, 0-3, RBI; Moss, 1-6, HR, 2 RBI; Blatt, 2-6, 2 RBI; Nielson, 0-2; Johnson, 1-5; Phillips, 1-1, RBI; Schroeder, 1-3; McCarten, 0-0; Reinker, 3-5.
Riverton - Dale, 2-5, RBI; Reinig, 2-5; Hutchison, 3-5, 2 HR, 9 RBI; Hines, 3-5, 2B, HR, 3 RBI; Raymond, 3-5, 2 2B, RBI; Hauck, 3-3, 2B, RBI; Stevens, 0-1; Draper, 0-3; Frazier, 1-3, RBI; DeVries, 1-3, RBI; Weber, 0-1.
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