After a tough loss Wednesday against Puerto Rico in this year’s Caribbean Regional Little League tournament, the U.S.V.I. team still found itself one win away from the championship game.
But their opponent wasn’t going to go quietly.
In the semifinal game against Curacao Friday at the Emile Griffith Ballpark on St. Thomas, the U.S.V.I. was up five in the top of the sixth behind a stellar shutout pitching performance from Kaleeq Brannigan.
But Curacao, the nine-time regional champs, responded with seven straight runs. The Virgin Islanders were forced to use three different pitchers to get out of the inning, down 7-5.
In the final inning, the Virgin Islanders were down to their last batter, Nagee Harris, and a full count. Harris kept himself alive and reached base on a walk. The next batter, Rasheed McCleaverty, also walked, and Jahshimo Hanley singled to load the bases.
Eluery Rosario was hit by a pitch to drive in Harris. Brannigan then lined the first pitch he saw to center field for an RBI single to score McCleaverty to tie the game at 7.
The drama intensified when Gweshaughn Richards, who blasted a grand slam in the third inning, came up with the bases loaded again. But the Curaçao pitcher threw a wild pitch that got by the catcher, and when the dust cleared, the umpire said, "Safe." The final score was 8-7, U.S.V.I.
The crowd erupted, and the Virgin Islands team was off to the regional championship game at 5 p.m. Saturday against Aruba, who beat Puerto Rico 4-0 earlier Friday afternoon.