FARMINGTON — Strike Zone Baseball has proven that the host team belongs in this year's Connie Mack World Series.
Facing elimination on Wednesday night against the American Qualifier champion Frozen Ropes of McKinney, Texas, Strike Zone came up with its biggest win of the year to reach the final four of the 2013 Connie Mack World Series.
Led by the powerful right arm of pitcher Ian Doughty and a top-to-bottom effort out of the batting lineup, Strike Zone cruised to a 7-3 victory to send the Frozen Ropes back home.
"We are feeling good. We played a great game. We had good at bats, and Ian Doughty was absolutely outstanding out there," said Strike Zone manager Adam Morrissey. "I have seen it all summer long. I knew we had a good shot coming in. I told the guys to keep riding this out. Why not us?"
Doughty, a Pepperdine University commit, was dominant throughout his seven complete innings of work. Throwing 135 pitches, the Piedra Vista High School graduate allowed five hits and three runs -- two earned -- while striking out five and issuing only one walk.
"He beat us. He was awesome. We didn't beat ourselves, he beat us. Period," said Frozen Ropes head coach Danny Florence of Doughty's performance.
Doughty threw a stellar game against D-BAT Leach on opening night of the CMWS but received a loss in the game. He was anxious for another shot and didn't waste it on Wednesday.
"It is my time to show what I can do. This game honestly meant the world to me," Doughty said. "It was one of the biggest games of my life. Nobody was taking me out of the game. I was finishing it."
Doughty got plenty of run support right from the start as Strike Zone scored two runs in the top of the first inning on a Jacy Cave triple that scored Matt Martin and Cody Bower.
"We are all feeling good. We are in a groove at the plate, and we hope to keep it up," Cave said. "We are riding this high right now, and we aren't too worried about the other teams we are playing."
Strike Zone tacked on five more runs in the fourth on just two hits as the Frozen Ropes switched pitchers twice and struggled to find a guy to throw strikes.
Danny Rowley reached on an error to start the inning, and Connor Calvert followed with a walk. Jeremy Johnson then came up with an RBI-single before a Matt Huffhines bunt moved Calvert and Huffhines to third and second base. Connor Dugan then struck out swinging on a wild pitch. Frozen Ropes catcher Jordan Goode couldn't find the ball, and both Calvert and Johnson scored while Dugan moved to second base.
Matt Martin ripped a triple to the right field fence a batter later, scoring Dugan to make it a 6-0 game. Martin later scored on another wild pitch.
"We just had good approaches at the plate. We made adjustments after Game 1 and have been executing perfectly since," Morrissey said.
The Frozen Ropes scored twice in the bottom of the sixth after getting consecutive singles to start the inning from Joe Baker and Anthony Herrera. Both boys would score on balls hit on the infield by Luke Hamblin and Taylor Becerra.
Becerra's RBI came on a line drive shot that hit Doughty in the leg. Doughty limped around but stayed in the game. Still, he had a noticeable limp and was iced up after the game.
"I didn't care. Nothing was going to take me out of the game," Doughty said.
Doughty recorded two quick outs in the seventh, but an error at first base by Cave extended the inning when it looked like Strike Zone had its last out. Hunter Seales reached on the error and eventually scored on a Baker single, but Doughty got Herrera to line out to Martin at shortstop to end the game.
The Frozen Ropes were sent home after a 2-2 showing with the loss.
"We had a great summer. Just getting here was great and being able to win a couple of games was really cool," Florence said.
The win advanced Strike Zone to the final four, where they will face the unbeaten East Cobb Yankees at 7:30 p.m. today.
"They are going to be a tough match up, but we are coming ready to play," Morrissey said.
Doughty said his team will continue playing with no fear the rest of the tournament.
"We are the underdogs, and we are rolling right now," Doughty said. "We can do it all. We can hang with any team here. A lot of people don't think we can, but we have been doing it all year."
John Livingston covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.