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Miller Toyota wins Pioneer title

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Larry H. Miller Toyota men's major fastpitch softball team can finally take that monkey off its back.

But it took 21 years.

Miller Toyota finally can exorcize its demons: It claimed the Pioneer Days Championship following a 3-1 victory over Meirhopper (Savannah, Mo.) Sunday afternoon at the Cottonwood Complex.

"We finally did it," said Brandon Burt, whose two-run triple in the bottom of the sixth inning lifted Miller Toyota to the championship.

"It tastes pretty good. It was a complete team effort. When you get a lead like that late in the game, it's like having a five or six run lead because our pitchers have been pitching so well for us.

"You might say it does relieve the pressure from our backs," Burt said.

"We've been in the title hunt two or three times and didn't get the job done. Today, we did. I'm proud of this team."

Meirhopper, the 1998 ASA National Champion, grabbed the lead, 1-0, in the first inning off Dewey Dyck.

But Miller Toyota came back to knot the score, 1-1, in the second inning, when Burt walked and Tommy Gray, who ran for him, came home on Brett Alvey's single to right field.

Dyck kept the Savannah team in the game with four hits and four strikeouts.

Blake Miller led off the sixth inning with a single to right.

Dave Paetkau sacrificed him to second. Then, Meirhopper walked Kyle Magnusson intentionally to bring Burt to the plate.

"I didn't even think about it," said Burt, the tournament's MVP, concerning the intentional walk.

"I just resorted back to thinking I was in batting practice. And he (Chris Bigelow) gave me a change-up, and I was able to extend my arms. It felt good."

"This team has always been in the mix," said Miller Toyota manager Wes Haymond. "Sure, it surprises me it took so long. But this is a great team. We have a great bench. We used it well in the tournament. And we had some fresh players for the championship game. We have faced a lot of good teams in the past that our bench couldn't compare with. "

Dyck won the tournament's MVP Pitching Award. It was his second victory of the tournament against Meirhopper, defeating them, 4-3, in the quarterfinals Saturday night.

In the semifinals Sunday, Miller Toyota dumped the Pueblo Bandits, 6-0, behind Peter Meredith's one-hit, 11 strikeout effort. Peter Turner, Shawn Taylor, and Alvey each contributed solo homeruns to Miller Toyota's effort.

Miller Toyota had five players, Kyle Magnusson, Dave Paetkau, Chad Boom, Meredith and Burt on the tournament's all-star team, while Page Brake's Scott Deul, with a .626, was the leading hitter.