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Dust Devils on verge of NWL title

The Tri-City Dust Devils got exactly what they needed today.

Well, a win of course. They needed that to keep their hopes of a Northwest League championship alive.

But it was more the spirit of the Dust Devils' 5-3 Game 2 win Saturday over Vancouver that put them in a great place heading into Sunday's game. It was one of those gritty, bloody-nose type battles that really lets you know what kind of team you really have.

After dropping Game 1 at home Friday to a fired-up Canadians team, there had to be some serious soul-searching on that long bus ride to British Columbia.

Speaking of losing a home game, do you realize that the home team has lost six of the seven NWL playoff games thus far? That's simply inconceivable, especially considering that the home team won over 63 percent of games in the NWL this year. The Dust Devils had the league's best record at home, winning 74 percent of the time at Gesa Stadium.

But Christian Bergman was the right guy to have out there today at Nat Bailey Stadium. He's been a rock all season long, and just his mere presence on the mound gives Tri-City a fighting chance. Saturday was far from his best start of the year, but he still ended up coming through with a big-time performance on the biggest stage there is.

He gave up two runs in the third and fell behind 2-0. But he kept Vancouver off the board for the next three innings, which gave the Dust Devils a chance to come back.

And how about Jaron Shepherd, who is hitting .615 (8-for-13) in four playoff games. Or Sam Mende, who just joined Tri-City a week ago out of Casper. He's the one who really got things going tonight with a pair of doubles and three RBIs. He was also part of a key defensive play that killed a potential Vancouver rally in the fourth.

Nelson Gonzalez, the sturdy reliever who tied Bergman for the league lead with seven wins, loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but he held it together just long enough to get Jon Berti to ground into a game-ending double play.

The Dust Devils have already proven to themselves they belong in this position. A win like that, however, just makes you hungry to get out there the next day.

That's a perfect place for Tri-City to be heading into Game 3.