FARMINGTON — After a disappointing loss earlier in the day to Naa'taanii, Strike Zone Baseball bounced back with dominant performance to advance to today's championship round.
Strike Zone knocked off the Rivercats with a 13-5 run-rule victory on Saturday at Ricketts Park, eliminating the Piedra Vista High School developmental team.
Strike Zone head coach Adam Morrissey was satisfied with the way his players approached their at-bats after getting shut out against Naa'taanii earlier on Saturday.
"We just tried to keep them loose and keep them focused," Morrissey said of his players. "They did a great job out there."
Strike Zone jumped out to 5-0 lead after two innings.
Jacy Cave ripped a 2-run double in the first inning, and then Matt Martin drove in two runs when he smashed a double off of the left field wall.
Getting the early offense was big for the team's confidence, Cave said.
"It helped out a lot. Everybody was swinging it better and taking better approaches," he said. "I think we're set up good for tomorrow."
The Rivercats fought back in the top of the third, scoring five runs to tie the game.
"That's what we're here for, to learn how put together hits against good arms," said Rivercats head coach Lars Baker.
Zach Ahlgrim's infield single drove in the Rivercats' first run, and a throwing error by Strike Zone third baseman Connor Dugan allowed two more runs to score.
The Rivercats plated two more runs in the inning with a bases loaded walk by Gunner Archuleta and a sacrifice fly by Philip Archuleta, tying the game at five.
Strike Zone quickly regained its lead with a seven-run third inning.
Cave led off the inning with a solo home run over the left field wall to give Strike Zone a 6-5 lead.
"We're just trying to go for the win and advance to the next day," said Cave, who went 3-for-4 at the plate with four RBIs, falling a single short of the cycle.
Two batters later, Tristin Rizek backed up Cave's blast with a two-run home run pushing the advantage to 8-5.
Strike Zone came around to score four more times in the inning, while sending 11 batters to the plate.
They secured the win two innings later when Dugan scored from third base after a balk by Rivercats' relief pitcher Philip Archuleta.
Cave received the win for Strike Zone after throwing three innings and allowing five runs.
"Jacy just left some balls up in the zone today, and they did what they're supposed to with them," Morrissey said. "So, we put Ben (Wiley) in, and he threw strikes and got us through the last couple of innings."
Wiley threw two innings of scoreless relief in the victory.
Logan Klunder took the loss for the Rivercats after allowing seven runs in one-third of an inning.
"There just wasn't enough execution on our part catching the ball and throwing strikes," Baker said.
After picking up two wins against the Aces and DC MOB, Baker said his teams' performance was "fantastic" throughout the week.
"It was a huge tournament for us as we progress into a varsity season," Baker said. "The kids that played together this summer built a lot of confidence."
Strike Zone will get another crack at Naa'taanii in today's title matchup. The team needs two victories to advance to the Connie Mack World Series.
"I think we'll go out there and play our best game and see what happens," Cave said. "We just need to stay focused."
Joshua Perry covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.