FARMINGTON — Baseball fans who spent their Saturday afternoon in the sun at Ricketts Park were rewarded with a showdown in Game 3 of the Connie Mack World Series. D-BAT Gallegos, who put up two runs in the sixth and seventh innings, survived a scare from Danville before escaping with a 7-5 victory.
"It was a battle all the way through. Danville has a great team," said D-BAT head coach Roberto Gallegos after the win. "We played them back in 2010 in Utah and knew that they're gonna fight back. We knew we'd have to come out here and pitch and play defense, and timely hitting in the sixth and seventh inning from our team to give us a little cushion. And you can see that if we don't score those couple runs in the sixth and seventh inning, it's a tie game."
D-BAT, of Dallas, Texas, struck early, getting on the board in the top of the first with an RBI single from designated hitter Josh Ragan and adding two more in the second when Lucas Wakamatsu and Brendan Venter touched home.
While the D-BAT offense got rolling early, starting pitcher Kyle Johnston dominated the lineup for the Danville Hoots, of California. After giving up a lead-off single to Steve Nice — the first batter Johnston faced — Johnston retired the next 12 batters.
"He pitched phenomenally," Gallegos said. "Kyle is a bulldog man. He goes out and competes and pounds the zone, and he's just a great kid. He trusted his stuff today, and you know what, he got a little worn down toward the end, but he battled through. That's what he's done all year."
Johnston said early success on the mound — hitting 94 mph on the radar gun and getting all three of his pitches going — and run support from the offense built his confidence throughout the game.
"I felt the curveball get a little bit better through the third and fourth innings," said the University of Texas commit. "I just tried to keep going, keep battling, throw first pitch strikes and have fun out there."
Danville got on the board in the bottom of the fifth inning, tying the game at 3-3 after a bad throw to first on a sacrifice bunt scored one, and a hard hit grounder from Nice bounced off the bag at second and settled in the shallow outfield, allowing Tim Susnara and Austin Piscotty to score from third and second, respectively.
D-BAT answered with two runs in the sixth and another two in the seventh, including a solo shot over the right field wall from lefty Josh Watson.
"Coming into the seventh inning, we knew we needed a couple extra runs," Watson said. "I took my time and waited for my pitch, and it was right there."
Entering the bottom of the seventh, Danville trailed 7-3. And with two outs, they caught a break. On a slow roller to Wakamatsu at short stop, Wakamatsu bobbled the glove-to-hand exchange, loading the bases.
Danville would get two runs in, but the security runs in the sixth and seventh for D-BAT were enough to keep Danville at bay.
"Everyone was kind of nervous coming into this game and this field, as big as this tournament is, and to pull off a W and have Kyle throw an awesome game, it was something special," Watson said.
With the win, D-BAT earns a bye during round two and will be back on the field at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
The loss sends Danville into a loser-out game tonight at 7:30 against Strike Zone. And that's just the way Danville head coach Don Johns wants it.
"We watched them play last night; they're great, they're a good team. It'll be a barn-burner," said Johns, who has brought three teams to the CMWS but is still looking for his first win. "I'm going to enjoy it. I'm going to walk off the field when this is done as my last role as a manager. If it's going to end for me as a manager and a coach, I'd rather it end here at Ricketts Park. One way or another, it's been awesome."