FARMINGTON — When the 14ers found out they would be playing unbeaten SZ Morrissey for a chance to move on and compete today for hosting rights of the Connie Mack World Series, they were ecstatic.
As it turned out, they had good reason to be.
Led by a brilliant pitching performance from Dalton Chandler and a pair of perfect sixth-inning bunts, the 14ers were able to shock unbeaten SZ Morrissey at Ricketts Park Friday night with a 2-1 win.
If 14ers head coach Jared Qualls wasn't already on cloud nine following the upset, he was when he drew a bye for today's set of games, which will determine the host team of the Connie Mack World Series. The 14ers, SZ Morrissey and the 4C-Clubsox all have just one loss in the double-elimination tournament, and by drawing the bye, the 14ers get to sit back and await the winner of the 5:30 p.m. SZ Morrissey-4C-Clubsox game.
The game was won in the bottom of the sixth inning, when errors plagued SZ just as they had earlier in the night.
Shortstop Lawrence Mayberry committed a throwing error to open the bottom of the sixth, allowing Taed Heydinger to reach base. A pair of beautiful bunts up the first-base line — one by Kyle Duran and one by Anthony Chamblee — gave the 14ers the late-game advantage.
SZ couldn't cleanly field Duran's bunt and ended up throwing the ball away, which put Heydinger on third base and Duran on first. Chamblee's bunt seemed to trickle fair down the grass for an eternity, and although he was thrown out, he was credited with the sacrifice RBI as Heydinger scored what would be the game-winning run.
Qualls said his team made bunting its No. 1 priority in Thursday's 10-1 win over Halo, and it paid off in a major way Friday night.
"Even though we didn't really need to bunt people around last night, that's what we focused on," Qualls said. "We knew tonight we would have to be manufacturing runs in order to win and that's what happened."
SZ Morrissey didn't waste any time getting on the board, coaxing a pair of walks and a single from Chandler in the top of the first. A Nathan Garley sacrifice groundout brought a run home, but it would be the first and only time SZ would score all night. In fact, SZ wouldn't register a clean base hit off of Chandler the rest of the night.
"(Dalton) has thrown in some big games this year, and so we trusted him in this one," Qualls said of Chandler's game. "He struggled with walking players the first three innings, but settled down a lot. (SZ Morrissey) only had that one hit in the first inning. So he pitched a really, really solid game for us."
Dayne Rowley took the hill for SZ, and he was just as impressive as the opposing pitcher. He struck out five batters, but suffered from shoddy infield defense in the bottom of the second inning, which wound up being a recurring theme for SZ Morrissey on the night.
Four SZ throwing errors led to a Draven Adame run in the second, which at that time tied the game at 1.
Chandler and Rowley battled for the next three-plus innings. They each got into their share of trouble, but each showed a lot of heart by continually pitching out of jams.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth, Rowley struck out Kaleb Hansen to keep the game deadlocked.
After scratching across the run in the sixth, Heydinger came in to successfully close the game and preserve Chandler's gem.
Now, with the chance to sit back and watch arguably the two favorites in the city tournament battle it out this afternoon, Qualls said he knows his team is in a favorable position.
"I think our guys are going to come in really pumped up after drawing that bye, the first bye we got in this tournament in the last couple of years," he said. "We would have liked to have gotten a bye earlier in the tournament, but it turned out to be beneficial for us because now we get a bye against the best team left."
The winner of today's early game will play the 14ers in the city tournament final at 8 tonight at Ricketts Park.