FARMINGTON — After losing a lopsided game on Monday, D-BAT Leach responded in a big way while facing elimination on Tuesday.
D-BAT was led by left-handed pitcher Octavio Rodriguez and the hot bat of Jake Rogers in route to an 8-0 run-rule victory against the Illinois Sparks in five innings at Ricketts Park on Tuesday. The loss sent Illinois home as the Sparks became the third team eliminated from the 10-team field.
The big win came as a relief to D-BAT after the squad fell 10-2 to the East Cobb Yankees in a six inning game Monday night.
"Coming into this game, we wanted to do the exact opposite of what we did last night," said Rogers, who was 3-for-3 in the game with a triple, an RBI and three runs scored, including the game winner in the bottom of the fifth. "We accomplished that and did even better."
Rodriguez had no problem mowing down the Illinois lineup as he racked up six strikeouts in five complete innings. He allowed just two hits and three walks.
"I wanted to come out and have fun. It is the Connie Mack World Series, and you have to have fun here," Rodriguez said. "I struggled a bit with my fastball, but my change up looked good and the curve ball was alright. I didn't feel my best, but I had to get through it and help the team win."
Rodriguez appreciated what Rogers, the team's seven-hole hitter, did to spark the team offensively.
"Jake Rogers, have yourself a day, kid. He provided a lot of runs," Rodriguez said. "My whole team is always behind me and everything I do is for them."
Rogers sparked D-BAT in the second inning with a one-out single. Bryant Collier followed with another single before Luke Hoyl singled to drive in Rogers. Illinois pitcher Yianni Pavlopoulos was called for a balk with runners on first and third after it looked like he had Hoyl picked off at first, but the ball allowed Collier to score to give D-BAT a 2-0 lead.
An inning later, a Rogers single drove in Hunter Courson and a Collier triple drove in Niko Buentello. An Illinois error allowed Rogers to score one batter later, giving D-BAT a 5-0 lead after three innings.
"They outplayed us. Once we were down four runs, I knew it was going to be a tough day," said Illinois head coach Garrick Pranchke. "Octavio was pitching a great game. From there, I just tried to get a bunch of kids in the game and let them get the experience of playing out here."
Pranchke pulled Pavlopoulos after two and one-third innings and relieved him with Jimmy Frainey.
Pavlopoulos gave up six runs on six hits while striking out five and walking three.
Frainey lasted one and one-third innings and gave up two runs on two hits and a walk.
D-BAT put the game away when Kramer Robertson came up with an RBI-single to score Nick Ramos in the fourth before a Courson sacrifice fly to center field scored Sheldon Neuse.
With D-BAT needing just one run to end the game in the bottom of the fifth, Rogers led off with a triple, and Hoyl drew a one-out walk to give D-BAT runners on first and third. Hoyl stole second and Illinois cut off a throw to try to catch Rogers running for him, but Rogers was under the tag and slid safely into home.
That run brought an end to the Sparks' season and concluded a journey that started when many of the Illinois players were just 11-year-old boys.
"The whole experience was great for the players and coaches," Pranchke said. "It is a tough way to end, and it is pretty emotional for the guys because it is the last time they will play together as a team. They all have bright futures, and I hope I can get another team back here next year."
D-BAT is happy with the way its pitching staff is lined up for the rest of the tournament, and head coach Pat Leach said ace Jake Elliott will be ready to go against the loser of the Midland Redskins and the Southern California Renegades.
Rodriguez said he would be able to pitch again Friday if the team reaches the final day, and Rogers is confident the team can do just that.
"We are happy where we are. We have never won a tournament without a loss. We got that out of the way, and now we are going to come back and get it done."