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Voyageur's Best Sports of 2003

Neil Vance

Pitcher’s duel
Floodwood’s, Neil Vance pitches a complete game for the win
by John Grones  | July 15, 2003

Sandy Lake’s two-year reign as the Greater Savanna Lit-tle League champions ended on Tues., July 8, in Tama-rack. Floodwood defeated McGregor, 5-4, in a good ol’ fashioned pitchers duel. Floodwood’s Neil Vance, recorded 13 strike outs and didn’t walk a single batter. McGregor’s Mike Tast and Christopher Novotny combined to record 12 strike outs and one earned run.

Prior to the pitchers taking over the game, the first inning actually started out with solid defense. Floodwood’s second baseman, Zach Heggedahl, fielded two straight ground balls and threw to first for the first two outs of the game. After that, it was all Neil Vance. The sixth grader struck out seven of the next eight batters.

Meanwhile, Floodwood built a four-run lead in the first three innings. In the bottom of the first, McGregor gave up two runs on errors. There was one out and runners on second and third, when Christopher Novotny made an excellent over-the-shoulder grab in four territory. Both Floodwood runners tagged up and scored on the attempted throw to home.

Floodwood picked up two more runs in the bottom of the second inning. After two runners reached base safely, Tim Myles, hit a two-run double.

McGregor finally got things going offensively in the top of the fourth inning. Zerek Marsyla hit a rocket to left field and scampered all the way around to third. Christopher Pierce then followed up with an infield single and Mike Tast reached on a fielder’s choice. With no outs, Neil Sample singled over first base to score the second run. The third and final run of the inning scored on Elliot Haapoja’s grounder to second base. At this point, McGregor trailed by one run, 3-4.

Floodwood tacked on one more, unearned run in the bottom of the fifth, and McGregor made one final effort to rally in the sixth. Mike Tast doubled to left to start the inning and, with one out, Elliot Haapoja singled, scoring Mike. Neil Vance took over at that point and finished the game with two strike outs.

Without a doubt, Neil was one of the most dominating pitchers in the league this year. His father (and coach of the team), Bubby Vance, noted that Neil had a .033 ERA going into the championship game. His dominance had very few limitations, but Neil was willing to share a few. His toughest outs this year included: Mike Tast (McGregor), Nick Ekelund (Sandy Lake) and Adam Smith (Cromwell).

Floodwood’s championship is the fourth in the past eight years. Sandy Lake has three in the same time span and McGregor has one.

This article first appeared in the July 15, 2003 issue of the Voyageur Press.