FARMINGTON — After a shaky first inning for both Prairie Gravel and Youth Service League, it looked like Game 14 might be riddled with pitching changes. Instead, adjustments were made, and both starters finished strong.
That was especially true for Prairie Gravel's Cole Bellair. The University of Illinois commit struck out seven batters, allowed only one earned run and led his Chicago-based team to a 4-1 win over Youth Service League on Tuesday at Ricketts Park.
The loss eliminates YSL (35-17-1) from the Connie Mack World Series and sends them back home to Brooklyn.
Prairie Gravel coach Sam Sorce said he was impressed with how Bellair bounced back after giving up a trio of singles and a run in the first inning.
"He threw great, he calmed down and threw strikes," Sorce said. "We fielded the ball, we played good defense and we scored enough runs to win the game."
The bats for Prairie Gravel (25-6-2) got to work in the top of the first inning. Just like he did Monday, Jake VanderWal scored the game's first run. And just like on Monday, it was Jeremy Eierman who knocked him in.
YSL promptly responded in the bottom of the first inning and tied the game on an Austin Ruiz RBI single. However, Prairie Gravel strung together spurts of offense for the rest of the game, while YSL fell stagnant.
"(Bellair) made quick adjustments after the first inning," YSL coach Quintin Cedeno said. "We got in some situations where some of my hitters were taking too many strikes, then he'd get them out with that good off-speed pitch. I wanted them to hit that first good pitch more often today."
Aaron Bond broke the 1-1 tie in the top of the second when he hit a line-drive home run over the right field wall.
Prairie Gravel then scored once in the fourth on a Daulton Ryans RBI single and once in the fifth when Jack Yalowitz plated VanderWal on a successful suicide squeeze. That was all the run support Bellair needed.
VanderWal, the Prairie Gravel leadoff hitter, sparked the team's offense. The Ohio State University commit finished one home run shy of the cycle and scored two runs. He has logged four extra base hits in his last two games.
For Youth Service League, starting pitcher Anderson Deleon battled all day en route to a five-strikeout, complete game. Like he did for Bellair, Cedeno credited Deleon with making adjustments throughout the game.
"He has a really good fastball, but he pitched against a really good fastball-hitting team," Cedeno said. "So he had to battle. He had to adjust real quickly and throw a lot more off-speed pitches. I think (Prairie Gravel) got some good breaks along the way as well. But we can't cry, we got beat by a good team today."
Upon its exit from the world series, Cedeno said he couldn't be prouder of his team's effort this week.
"I told my team that I loved them and that they were one of the best teams I've ever coached in 23 years," he said. "I've coached some top, top teams and this team was right up there."
With the win, Prairie Gravel punched its ticket as one of the final six teams in the tournament. The team will face D-BAT Elite (32-10) at noon Wednesday at Ricketts Park.
Leading hitters: Jake VanderWal, 3B, 2B, 1B, 2 Rs; Jack Yalowitz, RBI, BB, R
WP: Cole Bellair
Youth Service League
Leading hitter: Austin Ruiz, 1B, SB
LP: Anderson Deleon