FARMINGTON — Strike Zone Baseball's fairy tale run to the Connie Mack World Series semifinals came to an end Thursday night at the hands of the East Cobb Yankees.
East Cobb remained unbeaten in the CMWS with an 11-2 victory against Strike Zone in a full seven innings at Ricketts Park. The Yankees improved to 4-0 in the series with the win, and the team will face defending champion Southern California in the final round.
"We are excited. This is what we came here for. We have played well, but we still have one task to go," said East Cobb manager James Beavers. "It ain't over yet. Southern California has a good club, so we will see."
For Strike Zone, the loss came after the team had already made a remarkable run to reach the final four with wins against Puerto Rico and Texas' Frozen Ropes.
"It was an absolutely outstanding summer for these guys. I couldn't ask for a better group of kids," said Strike Zone manager Adam Morrissey. "All the hard work and things they accomplished, it was outstanding. They are a scrappy team that never quit."
East Cobb scored quickly in the bottom of the first inning as Wade Bailey scored thanks to a Strike Zone fielding error.
The Yankees didn't score again until the third inning as they got a two-out rally going against Strike Zone starting pitcher Indalecio Romo. Romo got two quick outs and thought he had a third on a strikeout, but a pitch was called a ball and Romo went on to walk Jason Delay. He also walked Nathaniel Lowe and Brandon Gold followed with a single to load the bases. Eric Knox was then hit by a Romo pitch to bring in Delay before Ryan Gridley delivered a three-run triple to put East Cobb up 5-0 in the third.
"I felt really confident. When you have the pitching and run support this team gives us, it gives me a chance to relax at the plate. I am appreciative of that," said Gridley, who was 4-for-5 in the game with four RBIs, a run scored and just a home run shy of hitting for a cycle.
East Cobb scored twice more in the bottom of the third inning thanks to RBI-singles by Stephen Wren and Connor Justus.
The Yankees showed no nerves playing in front of a sold out crowd there to support the host team. Beavers said he told his team to relish playing in front of the big crowd and not to worry about it during practice early Thursday morning.
"You could hear them screaming everywhere. It was unbelievable. There is nothing like that in Georgia or anywhere else," Gridley said. "They were a one of a kind crowd."
Romo lasted just two and two-third innings. He gave up seven runs -- six earned -- on six hits and four walks. He struck out two and was called for two balks.
"He threw great for us, just as he did all summer," Morrissey said of his pitcher from Eastern Arizona College. "That two-out walk opened the flood gates a bit. You just can't do that with East Cobb over there. They are a high-quality club and giving them a six-spot on the scoreboard made it very tough to get back in the game."
Strike Zone tried to fight back in the fourth and fifth innings. Cody Bower hit a leadoff triple in the fourth and scored on a Jacy Cave sacrifice fly.
In the next inning, Connor Calvert and Jeremy Johnson hit consecutive singles, and Connor Dugan drew a one-out walk to load the bases. Matt Martin drew another walk to bring Calvert home, but Bower grounded into a double play to end the inning with the bases loaded.
"Them turning that double play when we had some momentum and were getting back into it was big. They made all the plays," Morrissey said of East Cobb.
East Cobb's Tanner Shelton earned the win on the mound. He lasted four and one-third innings and only allowed two runs on three hits. He struck out four and walked two. Patrick Wiseman came on in relief and slammed the door on Strike Zone , not giving up a run or a hit.
Strike Zone has gone 6-8 over the last four years of the CMWS in a special run for the host team, which has still never won a CMWS championship.
"It says a lot about the whole community and what goes on in baseball in this town," Morrissey said of Farmington's recent success in the series. "People see what we do out on the field, but a lot of people don't see all the work a lot of people in this town put into baseball. Over the last four years, the product we have put on the field is a tribute to a lot of people in this town."
East Cobb has two chances to win one game against the Renegades tonight as they look for a sixth CMWS title.
"We want the ring. We want to do the team job. It would mean the world to me to bring that back for coach," Gridley said. "(Beavers) is an unbelievable coach. The best I have ever had. I want to do it for him."
Beavers knows nothing will come easily against the defending champions, but he said no team has beat his club twice this summer.
"We have had a good year and been fortunate, but we haven't played a club as good as SoCal either. We definitely are not looking past them," Beavers said. "That club won't beat themselves. We can't worry about them. We have to take care of what we do well and then hopefully they are not that much better than us."