FARMINGTON — Strike Zone Baseball is, yet again, hosting the Connie Mack World Series.
Connor Calvert delivered a single up the middle to score Connor Dugan in the bottom of the seventh inning and earn the Connie Mack City Tournament Title and CMWS host bid for the fourth-consecutive year with a 3-2 victory over Naa'taanii Sunday night at Ricketts Park.
"They came into pregame loose. I didn't have to say too much to them. They knew what needed to be done," said Strike Zone head coach Adam Morrissey. "I can't even say enough about what these kids accomplished today. Winning two games against those guys to go to the series, it doesn't get much better than that."
Strike Zone entered the day needing two victories to win the tournament.
They defeated Naa'taanii 4-2 earlier on Sunday to force the deciding game, but went into the seventh trailing 2-1 and were struggling to find any rhythm against Naa'taanii starter Nick DeArmond.
"He was throwing a great game against us out there, but we just wanted to keep plugging away," Morrissey said.
With one out Matt Huffhines drew a walk, then Dugan followed with a single against DeArmond.
Still needing two outs for the victory, Naa'taanii head coach Tim Campos made the move to relieve DeArmond with Marvin Ortiz.
"I made a choice, but they found a way to win," Campos said. "They found a way to do it again."
The move came back to bite Naa'taanii when Matt Martin ripped a double down the right field line to score Huffhines and tie the game at two.
"I was really looking for something I could drive," Martin said. "I was looking fastball, and he served it right up to me."
Ortiz then fell behind Calvert in the count 3-0 before Calvert slapped a single through the infield and secure the Strike Zone win.
"I was thinking on 3-0, that it had to be in one spot," said Calvert, who will be a senior at La Cueva High next season. "It was there, and I took a good swing. Lucky enough, I just hit it hard on a line and it got what we needed to win the game."
Naa'taanii jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Zach Hinojos ripped a lead off triple then scored on an RBI single by DeArmond.
Strike Zone answered in the bottom of the third with an RBI single from Jacy Cave to score Dugan, tying the game at one.
Naa'taanii regained the lead after Randy LePlatt doubled then came around to score from third after a pitch from Strike Zone starter Indalecio Romo got past catcher Danny Rowley.
Naa'taanii maintained its advantage until Strike Zone overcame the deficit in the seventh.
"I tip my hat to coach Morrissey and Strike Zone," Campos said. "They had heart and stuck with it and fought until the end."
Romo earned the win for Strike Zone, allowing two runs on five hits while striking out eight in seven innings.
"Romo on short rest, coming back after two days, goes seven innings and hold them to two runs. It's incredible stuff," Morrissey said.
DeArmond took the loss, giving up three runs on seven hits.
Strike Zone forced the do-or-die game with a 4-2 victory in the first game of the evening.
Ian Doughty tossed a complete game for Strike Zone in the win, allowing just two runs (one earned) on three hits while striking out nine Naa'taanii hitters in seven innings.
"My only mentality coming in was to throw strikes and give us a chance," Doughty said.
Tyson Curley pitched well for Naa'taanii in the loss, also throwing seven innings while allowing four runs (two earned) on four hits.
"I couldn't ask for anything more from both my starting pitchers. They pitched their hearts out," Campos said.
Strike Zone opened the scoring with an RBI double in the top of the first to score Dugan.
Naa'taanii responded in the bottom of the third with their first run on an RBI double from Roman Gonsalez.
Each team tacked on a run heading into the top of the sixth when Strike Zone pulled ahead for good.
Jeremy Johnson sliced an RBI double down the right field line to score Tristin Rizek, then came around to score himself thanks to an RBI single by Huffhines.
Strike Zone will now look toward the Connie Mack World Series taking place Aug. 2-9 at Ricketts Park.
"We have absolutely the most momentum you can get, and probably more confident than any team," Doughty said. "
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.