While coaches screamed and parents cheered, Jude Merriman stood in the box with a stoic look. His only movement was a steady chewing of gum. Once the pitch went into the air, Merriman went to work.
Merriman’s rocket up the middle allowed his brother Lonnie Merriman to score, giving McBride’s a 15-14 victory over Cole Taylor’s Lawn Care in the junior coach-pitch championship game at Morrison.
It was a family celebration after Jude’s shot sent Lonnie sprinting for home in a tie game. Lonnie missed home on his first try, but circled back before a tag could be applied, bringing his dad and coach Ben Merriman flying out of the dugout.
He picked Jude up as fans swarmed the field, a final celebration to a nail-biting championship matchup.
“It was awesome,” said coach Merriman. “Cole (Taylor) and I have a bit of a rivalry. Getting to the tournament and beating a team as good as his, and coming in clutch like we did, it was a thrill.”
Taylor’s and McBride’s split the regular-season series, but McBride’s jumped to a big lead in the championship game with a nine-run first inning. Taylor’s was forced to play catch up the rest of the way, but was up to the task in the final inning.
Trailing 14-11 and down to its last out, Leyton Taylor gave Taylor’s life with a two-run double. Dalton Lowe followed with the tying shot, a bouncer through the middle which allowed Taylor to circle and score. Willow Kennerly, named the Director’s Choice top female after the game, ended the rally by snatching a shot up the middle and racing home for an out with the bases loaded.
Taylor’s tried to force extra innings with a defensive stand, but the Merrimans wouldn’t allow it. Lonnie started the frame with a double, then moved to third on a groundout. After a strikeout, Jude was left to do the rest.
His heroic hit stopped Taylor’s from what could have been an epic comeback.
“We showed grit and heart,” said coach Cole Taylor. “We were there with two outs and forced a tie. It was a great game. I’m so happy for our kids and for McBride’s.”
Following the game, Hayden Mears from Cole Taylor’s Lawn Care was named the Director’s Choice standout male for helping his team to a regular-season title.