The kid with an injured wrist drove in the kid who misread a steal sign.
It was a fitting conclusion to a wacky 9-8 seven inning victory by the South Fort Myers 10-11-year-old All-Stars on Monday night at Rutenberg Park.
After rallying from a six-run deficit to tie Cape Coral National in the sixth, South won the District 9 title in dramatic fashion in the seventh when Shane King, whose bandaged left wrist kept him from playing catcher, smoked a double into the left-center gap. T.J. Feeney, who led off by reaching on an error and then mysteriously stole second, easily scored the winning run, leaping into the arms of jubilant teammates eagerly awaiting his arrival.
"That's about as exciting as it gets," said South manager Bruce McAfee.
King hurt his wrist following a game last week. The injury wasn't serious enough to keep him out of the line-up, but it did prevent him from being behind the plate.
"That was a clutch hit by him," said McAfee, "so it must feel better."
Feeney, meanwhile, stunned his coaches by stealing second.
"We all looked at each other and said, 'why is he running?' " said McAfee.
Feeney was nearly tagged out by shortstop Bradley Dusick, but as Feeney began his descent into the base, he collided with Dusick's left arm, jarring the ball loose.
While Cape coaches tended to an injured Dusick, McAfee visited Feeney, who apparently thought he had been given a steal sign.
"We didn't give him the sign. I told him 'you are so lucky you're safe.' He smiled," said McAfee.
South advances to the Section 6 tournament in Venice where they're scheduled to face the District 16 winner on July 21 at 6 p.m. Chuck Reiter Field is the site for all games.
South will be hard-pressed to duplicate something as memorable as Monday's miracle.
From a towering home run by South's Paul Bretton, Jr. to a terrific outing by Cape pitcher Skylar Holt to an umpire chasing away a trespassing muscovy duck — one that had waddled into, where else, fowl territory — it was a game that featured just about everything that can make Little League as exciting as the big leagues.
And, of course, there was the Rally at Rutenberg.
For five innings Cape, which needed a victory in order to force a winners-take-all game that would have been played the following night, did everything right.
"They made every play," said McAfee. "They got every bloop hit. They had three perfect bunts. Their shortstop had a good night. He made four or five good outs."
With the exception of Bretton's two-run blast in the first inning, South's bats were kept off balance by Holt, whose pinpoint locations and off-speed selections caused several weak pop-ups and grounders. Holt allowed seven hits, struck out one and walked four in five and one-third innings.
Even McAfee began to wonder if a six-run deficit entering the sixth was too much to overcome.
"I had my doubts being down 8-2," he said, "but you never know. With a slugging team like we got, it's never over."
"They're just a very powerful team," added Cape coach Tom DiLallo. "You can't let up for an instant with a team that has as many bats as they have. One through 14, they can all put the bat on the ball."
That's exactly what South did in the sixth.
With one out, pinch hitter Jordan Hair ignited the rally with a single. Hair wound up on third thanks to an error and was driven home on a single by Dave Antonucci to make it 8-3.
After Spencer Hobby (2-for-3) reached on an error, Bretton (2-for-2, 4 RBI with 2 walks) drove in his third and fourth runs of the game with a double.
With South trailing by three, Holt was relieved by Rael Fernandez, who was promptly greeted by an RBI double from Corey Gibson that made it 8-6.
Bretton and pinch runner Zach Belcher each scored on wild pitches to complete a startling comeback that silenced the horn-blowing Cape fans.
South nearly ended it in regulation, but a deep fly by Fabian Afanador was hauled in by a leaping Stang in center. Fernandez then retired Travis McAfee on another fly to end the inning.
Bretton, who allowed seven hits and fanned eight in six innings, was relieved by Gibson to start the seventh.
With one out, Cape's Zach Miller singled and stole second before Gibson struck out Payton DiLallo on a nasty offspeed pitch and then retired Stang on a grounder to first, setting the stage for the heroics by Feeney and King in the bottom of the inning.
Led by Dusick (2-for-2) and Matt Bellomy (2-for-3), Cape had been in command since the first inning when they took a 2-0 lead.
South answered quickly when Hobby led off the bottom of the first with a single and Bretton followed with a home run to center. Both hits came on first pitches.
Bretton settled down in the second, striking out the side in order. But he ran into problems in the third as Cape took a 4-2 lead on a pair of unearned runs.
Cape upped their lead to 6-2 with two runs in the fifth, including an RBI sacrifice fly by Fernandez.
Cape pushed across two more unearned runs in the sixth before South's bats finally got on track in the bottom of the inning.
"We just wanted to get base hits and line drives," said King.
Pessimism was not permitted on the South side as they embarked on their comeback.
"If somebody sat down, another kid would tell him to get up," said Hobby.
After the game, everyone on South's side was up for the wide-grinned trip around the field with the District 9 banner.