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RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – As if three years of frustration wasn’t enough, Ramstein added one more inning’s worth.

It only made the eventual triumph sweeter.

A spirited, homestanding Ramstein squad swung its way out of an early deficit and ended Patch’s three-year reign atop DODDS-Europe Division I baseball on Saturday with a 13-7 title-game victory.

After three years of beating the Royals in this game, Patch started its pursuit of a fourth in convincing fashion.

The Panthers hit with abandon in a six-run first inning sparked by an RBI double by All-Europe senior Jack Smith. The Royals went scoreless in the bottom of the frame, doing nothing to quell the Patch momentum.

No, that had to wait an inning.

Ryan Burk - the relief pitcher - kept Patch from padding its lead in the top of the second and then Burk - the middle-of-the-order power hitter - eliminated the lead entirely in the Ramstein half of the inning with a game-tying grand slam to center field. The Royals tacked on two more runs for an 8-6 lead entering the third inning.

While Patch still struggled to touch Burk, the Royals set to work padding their cushion with a three-run third inning and two more in the fourth. With the one hour and 50-minute time limit approaching, the fifth inning loomed as the Panthers’ final desperate opportunity to erase a 13-6 Royal lead.

But not on Burk’s watch. The seasoned junior calmly subdued the Panthers, yielding just one harmless run before clinching the victory. The third out came as the game reached its prescribed time limit, and there was some confusion as to the game’s status. But Ramstein’s offensive half of the inning would have pushed the game past its time limit; since the Royals held a lead, they didn’t need to hit.

When this became clear, the celebration belatedly began.

“I couldn’t be more proud of a group of guys,” Royals coach Tom Yost said. “They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to. They’ve done it with intensity, they’ve done it with attention to detail.”

After losing to Patch in three straight European championship games, bragging rights in DODDS-Europe’s premier baseball rivalry now reside firmly in Ramstein.

“These guys know what it takes and they came through, big-time,” Yost said.

Nobody came through like Burk, the versatile star whom Yost calls the “heart and soul” of the Royals. His day’s work included 4 2/3 innings without an earned run on the mound, five RBI at the plate and a valuable dose of leadership in the dugout.

“We were down, but I made sure that I picked everybody up and made sure we were focused on playing our game and doing what I know we can do,” Burk said. “That’s hit the ball and score.”

The Royals did that relentlessly.

In addition to Burk’s blast, Justin Pendergrass cleared the fences for a two-run home run. And Santee Jackson, a contact-hitting junior outfielder, locked in at the plate for a 3-for-3 effort with two runs and two RBI.

“He’s had the ability to do that, and he put it all together today,” Yost said. “It was perfect timing.”

Jackson was introduced to Ramstein’s frustrating futility against Patch last year, and was thrilled that his spot-on hitting helped turn the rivalry in his school’s favor.

“I was just feeling it today,” Jackson said. “Maybe it was the sunny weather.”

While the Royals celebrated and posed for photos on their home field, the shocked Panthers milled about their dugout and awaited the post-tournament awards ceremony, at which they’d take the unfamiliar position of runner-up. Saturday’s loss marked the end of a 41-game winning streak.

In typical straightforward fashion, Patch coach Drake Marbury said he had simple words of advice for his disappointed charges.

“Keep your head up and learn from it,” Marbury said. “Next time you’ll be better.”

For Ramstein baseball, meanwhile, “next time” has finally arrived.

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twitter: @broomestripes


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