FARMINGTON — It took Strike Zone a couple of innings to warm up, but after a bit of a slow start, the team seemed to get better with each inning to earn a 7-5 victory over the Rivercats tonight at Ricketts Park.
After sitting Strike Zone down in order during the top of the first inning, the Rivercats came up with three runs in the bottom half of the inning to take an early lead. In the inning, the Rivercats had runs driven in by Devin Ferrari and Tyler Mead, then saw Ferrari score when Strike Zone’s second baseman David Saldivar mishandled a grounder after it took a tough hop off the pitcher’s mound.
But Strike Zone pitcher Kelton McCoy settled in after the first inning and held the Rivercats without a hit during the next three innings.
“He kept his composure,” Strike Zone assistant Chris Roland said of McCoy. “Some balls were hit just out of our reach and (the Rivercats) did a good job finding holes and being aggressive with the bat, but (McCoy) did a good job bouncing back after that.”
While McCoy kept the Rivercats tame in the second through fourth innings, Strike Zone’s bats warmed up after struggling to figure out Rivercats’ pitcher Grant Bessy.
“We did a better job after the first couple of innings and adjusted to the pace of the ball (Bessy) was throwing,” Roland said. “He did a good job the first two innings keeping our guys off balance, but our guys did a good job changing their approach.”
Strike Zone got RBIs from McCoy and Andrew Laymon in the third inning, and an RBI in the fourth from Josh Matamorus to tie the game at 3.
Strike Zone took the lead in the top of the fifth when Jake Taylor scored on an error, then pushed the advantage to 5-3 after an RBI double from Kyle Duran.
Rivercats head coach Mike McGaha said the difference in the middle innings when Strike Zone found success at the plate was due in part to the struggles of the Rivercats pitching staff to throw first-pitch strikes.
“A lot of time when you don’t throw strike one, you end up in situations where you have to serve it up, which leads to hits. That was the case in those middle innings. We just didn’t get ahead in the count,” McGaha said.
In the bottom of the fifth, Elijah Gamboa started the inning with a triple for the Rivercats, who worked the bases loaded with one out, but they were only able to score one run.
Strike Zone added two more runs in the top of the sixth, first with Taylor scoring on a wild pitch. McCoy later crossed the plate after an RBI double from Zac Van Duran.
Gamboa drove in the Rivercats' final run of the game in the bottom of the sixth.
“I thought we swung the bat well and competed well at the plate,” McGaha said. “We didn’t get a lucky hop when we needed one, but sometimes that’s the way it goes.”
Tonight wrapped up regular-season play for Strike Zone and the Rivercats, and both teams will begin to focus on the City Tournament with a bid to host the Connie Mack World Series on the line.
“We have a process that we preach within our program of being prepared for whoever our next opponent is. The kids have bought into that and believe in that,” Roland said. “We’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.