Tom Cessford of the Dustmen goes high for a catch as teammate Ivan Hall looks on last week during the Port McNeill Slo-pitch playoff finals at Centennial Field.

Dustmen topple top seeds

Port McNeill's Dustmen take Slo-pitch tourney the hard way.

PORT McNEILL—Having just blown a 12-2 lead to fall behind by three runs, and faced with the end of their playoff run, the Port McNeill Dustmen had every reason to panic during Wednesday’s Port McNeill Slo-pitch league playoff game against the two-time defending champion Woodchuckers.

Instead, the Dustmen dusted off their best Alfred E. Neuman impression — what, us worry?

The Dustmen scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to send the game into extra innings at 15-15, then got a solo home run from Taylor Galeazzi in the eighth and held the Woodchuckers scoreless in the bottom half to force an “if necessary” championship final the following evening.

In Thursday’s rematch, Galeazzi cracked his second straight homer in the first inning, and Ryan Rushton went deep twice and drove in eight runs as the Dustmen ran off with the league title with a 12-8 win.

The Woodchuckers, the regular-season champions, rolled unbeaten through the two-week tourney to take the top seed into Wedneday’s final. That forced the Dustmen, who worked their way through the loser’s bracket to earn a finals berth, to win two game to clinch the crown.

“We’re not afraid to screw up,” said Rushton, who committed one of the errors that helped the Woodchuckers to a seven-run sixth inning in Wednesday’s contest. “We don’t get down on each other; we just have fun.”

Dustmen player-coach Greg Fox put it more succinctly.

“We’re all buddies, except for some of us,” Fox said.

The Dustmen turned to the long ball to win Thursday’s clinching game. Rushton and Galeazzi both hit two-run shots to stake the team to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning and, after the Woodchuckers clawed within 5-4, Rushton launched a grand slam in the top of the fourth to make it 9-5 and give the Dustmen the lead for good. Rushton added a two-run single and Tom Cessford had an RBI single as the Dustmen added three insurance run in the fifth, which were more than enough to carry the team to victory.

“We just played Hillbilly ball,” joked Cessford, a member of the Hyde Creek Hillbillies squad that recently won the North Vancouver Island Baseball League title and which also includes Rushton, Galeazzi and Dustmen outfielder Ivan Hall.

Curtis Carmen, another Hillbilly, played across the diamond for the Woodchuckers Thursday. Carmen homered and also hit an RBI single for the losers. Aaron Desbiens contributed an RBI double and Shanna Laflamme drove in a run with a sacrifice fly for the team, which will compete this week along with the Dustmen and 20 other teams in the annual OrcaFest Slo-pitch Tournament.

In Wednesday’s series opener, the Dustmen pushed home the per-inning limit of five runs in the second and third innings — including a solo homer by Galeazzi — and enjoyed a 12-2 lead heading into the bottom of the third. But the Woodchuckers responded with three runs in the third, three more in the fourth, and the seven-run outburst in the sixth that gave the team a brief lead. The big blows included a grand slam homer by Mike Miller, a three-run shot by Desbiens and an RBI double by Jason Evans. Tammy Anderson also reached and scored twice and Dustin Carmen scored three runs.

Ashlynn Moore had a pair of hits and drove in three runs for the Dustmen, and Keith Balcke had three hits and three runs. Nicole Yorke had three RBI and two runs scored in the win.