POCATELLO – At the entrance to Halliwell Park on Tuesday, Gate City pitcher Chris Needham hugged Terry Fredrickson before telling the Grays owner that he was going to win for him.
Three days ago on Saturday, Fredrickson’s father, Jerry, died of heart failure.
Three days later on Tuesday, Needham fulfilled his promise. The winning pitcher helped Gate City defeat Providence 6-5 to clinch Gate City’s third Northern Utah League title in four years.
The Grays route to a win was as circuitous as their trek through the season.
Gate City (21-11-1) scored the first two runs of Tuesday’s game in the bottom of the second inning before Providence pounced in the top of the fifth inning by scoring four runs to take a 5-2 lead. But with the help of Providence’s struggling pitchers, Gate City quickly bounced back with three runs to tie the score 5-5, and that was followed by a go-ahead run in the sixth that was drove in on a sac-fly by Chase Barrera.
“They’re a good ball club. It’s not like we gave them anything,” Gate City manager Trent Seamons said. “They’re tough and don’t make mistakes. And they got some across and that’s what we expected. I was just really hoping the guys would stay focused.”
Providence (22-5) went undefeated in five games against Gate City in the regular season, minus a matchup the Wolverines forfeited. The Grays were outscored 40-11 in their regular-season losses to Providence.
Gate City made those games void by executing a sweep in the NUL best-of-three championship round. After the Grays won 2-0 on Monday at Providence thanks to the arm of Mason Foltz, they were assisted by Needham, who did just enough to guide his team to victory Tuesday. Needham allowed eight hits and four earned runs while striking out six and walking one in six innings against the prolific Providence bats.
The highlight of the game for Needham was allowing one hit in the sixth frame after giving up four runs in the fifth.
“Fifth inning, it wasn’t a very good one,” Needham said. “But in the sixth, it was just about making adjustments and having a quick inning. The offense did a really good job of getting us back into the game, tied it up.”
Then, it was left to Gate City’s James Prockish and the defense to finish it out in the seventh inning. When the game concluded, the Grays stormed the diamond and made a dogpile. It was the second time the Grays have celebrated the championship on their home field.
At the same Halliwell gate Needham made his promise, gobs of fans filtered through and filled Halliwell to capacity and witnessed it all, from the intense outing to the celebration afterward that marked the end of the Grays’ fifth year of existence.
It was a bittersweet moment for Terry. Not only did his father die Saturday, but his brother, Jerry Devon Fredrickson, died on May 3. But after and during the game, Terry received countless embraces from one person after another in an environment he and his wife, Erica, created.
“This is family,” Terry said. “I felt loved tonight.”