FARMINGTON — The defense was spectacular and runs were hard to come by in Monday's Game 11 between the Southern California Renegades (41-5-2) and Prairie Gravel (24-6-2).
That was until the top of the seventh inning.
A pitcher's duel highlighted by superb defense was interrupted in the seventh when the Renegades torched Prairie Gravel's bullpen for six runs. SoCal's big offensive inning led to their 7-1 win at Ricketts Park in the third round of the Connie Mack World Series.
"We're not going to win any close games when we walk five guys and hit another guy in the late innings," Prairie Gravel head coach Sam Sorce said. "Someone's going to have to emerge from that bullpen, step it up and be the hero."
Jake Cooner started for Prairie Gravel, opposed by Dillon Brown of the Renegades. Both starting pitchers were stingy to the offenses, allowing only one run apiece.
Prairie Gravel, out of Chicago, scored first in the bottom of the first inning. Jake VanderWal led off the game with a triple, and Jeremy Eierman scored him on a sacrifice grounder.
But the Renegades later went on to score seven unanswered runs.
Southern California second baseman Tyler Ankrom tied the game in the top of the third with a sacrifice ground out of his own. Then the team's infield got to work in the middle innings.
Prairie Gravel third baseman Jake Oremus and Renegades shortstop Tommy Anderson both made a handful of highlight-reel defensive plays for their respective teams.
"Tommy's a big-time player," Renegades coach Si Pettrow said of Anderson. "He's a college guy, heading off to Santa Ana College, and he's awfully good."
The dynamic of the game started to shift when Cooner was relieved in the top of the sixth inning after an Anderson double.
"I talked to (Cooner) a couple of times before we pulled him. He's usually around 85, 86 (miles per hour), but we was hovering around 82 late in the game," Sorce said. "He just ran out of gas and wasn't throwing strikes."
Robert Talarico, James Whiteman and Matt Lenzen pitched in the game without Cooner. But none of them were effective for Prairie Gravel.
In the seventh, six Renegades in a row reached base. Only half of those hitters reached with base hits; two were walked and one reached on an error.
Pettrow said his team did a great job taking advantage of Prairie Gravel's shaky bullpen.
"We preach a lot of times to take what they give us," he said. "We tell our guys that they have to be able to hit with one strike. I tell them to take every pitch the opposing team gives us, just don't miss the one we're looking for, basically."
Solomon Bates, a University of Southern California commit, relieved Brown for the Renegades in the fifth inning and was absolutely unhittable.
Bates didn't allow a Prairie Gravel base runner in his three innings of work, flashing velocity of up to 93 mph and striking out five of the nine batters he faced to close the game.
The 5:15 p.m. start time of Monday's game led to shadows over the infield as the sun began to set. Sorce said that contributed to his team's inability to hit Bates.
"It got a little bit later in the day, and we started dealing with the shadows, but their offense had the same shadows, and we didn't throw it over the plate," Sorce said. "So (Bates) shut us down and deserves a ton of credit."
The Renegades will move on to play D-BAT Elite (32-9) at 7:30 p.m. today.
Prairie Gravel will lick its wounds and prepare to play Youth Service League (35-16-1) in an elimination game at noon today.
Southern California Renegades
Leading hitters: Tommy Anderson, 2B, R; Tyler Ankrom, RBI, 2 BBs
WP: Dillon Brown
SV: Solomon Bates
Leading hitter: Jake VanderWal, 3B, 2B, R
LP: James Whiteman