HAMILTON — Sometimes it's a huge swing of the bat that turns the tide in a ball game — like the three-run home run to dead center from Hamilton's Tucker Jones that counted for the winning run in the Bitterroot Red Sox's 7-6 Game 1 victory against the Glacier Twins on Sunday.
And sometimes its the smallest miscues that can spark a rally, like the one that helped the Red Sox capture an 8-7 thriller in Game 2 and gain a big advantage in the Class A West District standings.
"I'll tell you what, you have to tip your cap," said Glacier Twins coach Scott Murray, whose squad tucked into second place in the standings behind the Red Sox after the day-series sweep. "They came back, then they came back twice, and we just have to play better ball if we're going to hang with them.
"We know we're going to run into these guys (at the district tournament) and they're going to be a tough team every time we come to play. This is really good for us, though, because we see, look, you better do the little things right or it's not going to turn out for us."
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning of Sunday's night cap scheduled for seven innings, the Red Sox found themselves down to their last strike.
With runners on first and second base, Bitterroot No. 9 hitter Chance Schmitt used up his final strike as well, swinging and missing at a pitch from Twins closer Nathan Hader.
The ball skipped away from the Twins catcher though, and Schmitt hustled to first base. Calls from Glacier fans inaccurately assumed that the dropped third strike rule — where a batter can attempt to advance on a swinging strike three that hits the dirt — didn't apply since first base was occupied.
But with two outs, all runners can advance on a dropped third strike, which was ruled correctly by the maligned home plate umpire. Instead of the Twins celebrating an extra-inning win, the Red Sox were rewarded with new life and the bases loaded.
And the Bitterroot boys capitalized.
Red Sox leadoff hitter Cam Rothie promptly clubbed a two-RBI base hit to cut into the Twins lead, 7-6.
Rothie followed with a victorious head first slide as the graduating senior came around to score from second base on Tyler Davis' two-run walk-off smash to right center field.
Davis — nicknamed Tiger by his team — was swarmed on the infield grass after delivering the hit that put his Red Sox in the driver's seat for the district's top seed with four conference games remaining in the regular season.
"He threw me a ball first pitch and I told myself to just look middle away in the strike zone and put it in the gap there in right field, and that's what they did," Davis said of his two-out, game-on-the-line approach. "This was crazy. Tucker (Jones) hitting that bomb in the first game and then this. Everybody in the lineup really produced today, one through nine."
Indeed it took a team effort to win as the eighth inning rally was actually Bitterroot's second comeback of the game and third of the day. An inning earlier, the Red Sox trailed 4-3 after a two-run home run from Glacier's Coby Clark-Dickinson in the top of the seventh inning.
The Red Sox twice were down to their final strike in home half of the seventh, as Davis was able to extend the rally and load the bases with an infield single on a 3-2 pitch. Up stepped Jones, who didn't even have to swing the bat for the tying run to come home. A passed ball scored Tyson Rostad from third to tie the game 4-4. Jones was then intentionally walked and Hader coaxed a pop fly to end the threat.
In Game 1, though, the Red Sox needed Jones' bat and, as it were, Rostad's arm.
Trailing 6-2 through five innings, Red Sox skipper Kallan Grenfell called on Rostad, his flame throwing underclassman, to keep his team's deficit at just four.
Rostad promptly struck out the side in the top of the sixth inning.
"You go out and strike out the side and it totally shifts the momentum in the game," Grenfell said. "...You come into the dugout and are ready to get some runs."
Another two-RBI single from Davis in the bottom of the sixth inning helped cut into the Twins' lead, 6-4. It also set up Jones' 3-run shot. The slugging centerfielder yelled 'Let's Go' as he touched home plate with his team celebrating alongside.
"It was a ball up in the zone and I was able to connect," said Jones, who estimates he has "six of seven" home runs this season. "Rostad gave us a little momentum and it was just downhill — or uphill — from there. Whatever way you look at it."
No matter how the Red Sox were able to take two from the Twins, the Bitterroot Boys now sit in first place with a 31-8 overall record, 13-3 in district. The Twins — who beat the Red Sox in both the district and state tournament championship last year — fell to 19-12, 13-5.