FARMINGTON — The Midland Redskins will return to their second home next week as the Connie Mack World Series festivities kick off.
Midland won the East Central Regional Qualifier championship game 2-1 against the Kentucky Colonels on Wednesday, giving the Redskins their 23rd consecutive Connie Mack World Series appearance.
"It is Farmington, our home away from home. The first thing we talk about on the first day of practice in June when they step on the field here in Cincinnati is starting our drive and march to get to Farmington," said Midland assistant coach Brian Hiler. "Time flies when you are having fun, and here we are coming back to Farmington."
Midland won the championship game of its region thanks to stellar pitching from Cory Wilder and two solo-home runs by Zack Shannon and T.J. Nichting. Nichting and Shannon are both returning players from last year's squad, along with Andrew Benintendi. Mike Ruppenthal will also return to Farmington with Midland after playing for the Ann Arbor Travelers a year ago.
"I am definitely excited. I can't wait to get back to the field and hopefully come out on top this year," Nichting said. "The best part, I would have to say, is playing in front of all the fans and seeing my host family again."
Midland was in search of a fourth consecutive championship in 2012 before being upset in the championship game by the So Cal Renegades.
"We are definitely motivated. This team is ready to come out there and play some ball," Nichting said.
Midland has only lost three games all summer after playing more than 50 games. The losses have come to their secondary team, the Midland Braves, in an extra innings game, the Huntington Hounds of West Virginia and the East Cobb Yankees out of Georgia.
East Cobb has also qualified for this year's CMWS out of the Southeast Region. The Yankees are looking for a sixth world series championship this year.
"We have only lost three games, but I tell you what, records are a funny thing. All of our games this summer have been really close. I can't tell you how many one-run games we have won," Hiler said. "The whole season could have gone either way easy."
This year's Redskins team has a different makeup than in years past. Midland has gone back to its roots of playing kids mostly from Cincinnati and the surrounding area, rather than recruiting top prospects nationally.
"When Papa Joe Hayden took all the teams to Farmington in the '80s and '90s up until about 2001, we were very locally based with guys within 30 miles of Cincinnati," Hiler said. "This year, we are back to that. Depending who is on the mound, we will have eight guys on the field within 30-mile region of us. It isn't the typical Midland team people have seen in the past. We don't hit a lot of home runs. This is a scratch and claw team that tries to keep games close."
Midland has also suffered several key injuries in recent weeks, losing three Division I prospects, including their No. 1 pitcher and starting shortstop.
Hiler said the team is excited to come out to Ricketts Park and see the stadium's new renovations, but team owner Joe Hayden will not make the trip this year. Hayden was inducted into the inaugural class of the CMWS Hall of Fame last year along with Dallas Mustangs coach Sam Carpenter.
"Papa Joe won't make the trip. His wife, Lois, had a mild stroke at the beginning of June. She has recovered, but obviously she is always in the thoughts and prayers of the team," Hiler said. "Traveling from Cincinnati to Farmington as a 20-year old and then at 83 is two different types of traveling. It is a long haul for Mr. and Mrs. Hayden. Coach Hayden is a great family man and family has always been above baseball, so he is going to stay back and take care of his wife."
Hiler is looking forward to the trip for his new players and said the returning guys have made it pretty clear what kind of experience they are in for.
"They talk about parades, host families, home run derbies and Frito pies," Hiler said. "Ohio people wonder what a Frito pie is. It is just something hard to explain and it is something you have to experience."John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.