FARMINGTON — Facing elimination from the Connie Mack World Series, Prairie Gravel beat up the Midland Redskins for a 7-1 win Thursday night at Ricketts Park.
"We're very excited. It was sloppy. Nine errors between two teams. Very sloppy, but we'll take it," Prairie Gravel coach Sam Sorce said.
Before Thursday, Midland (43-4) had not lost once in the tournament. The Cincinnati team joins Chicago's Prairie Gravel (27-6-2) and the Marietta, Ga.-based East Cobb Yankees (53-5) as the three teams remaining in the world series. All have one loss.
Because Midland received a bye earlier in the tournament, the Redskins will play in today's 5:15 p.m. game against Prairie Gravel. The winner of that game will face the Yankees in the final at 8 p.m.
"All we had to do was win tonight," Midland coach Dave Evans said. "If we won tonight, someone would have had to beat us twice, but it didn't work that way."
The Yankees won a coin flip against Prairie Gravel to receive the bye into the title game.
After being shut down by Midland pitcher Patrick Raby and being held without a hit in the first three innings, Jeremy Eierman put Prairie Gravel on the board with a solo home run over the left-field wall to lead off the fourth and take a 1-0 lead.
"The first time through the lineup, I knew it was going to be a close game, and we made some adjustments the second time around. That home run by Jeremy Eierman, it looked like it knocked the wind out of (Raby's) sails," Sorce said. "We swung the bats, and hitting's contagious. All we need is to string a couple hits together, and everyone starts swinging the bat."
Jack Oremus kept things going in the inning with an RBI single that scored Daulton Ryans from third to make it a 2-0 game.
With no outs in the inning, Aaron Bond laid down a bunt to advance the runners and beat the throw to first for an infield single to load the bases.
On the next at-bat, Cristian Sanchez hit a grounder to second, but Midland's Luke Waddell couldn't corral it and another run was scored. Then nine-hole hitter Jordan Muffley drove in two more runs to stretch the lead to 5-0.
"We probably kept him out there too long," Evans said of Raby. "He threw three great innings. When they had us down, they took care of business. We didn't hit, we didn't play defense and we didn't pitch too well."
Midland answered in the bottom of the inning, getting one run across on an RBI from Stephen Scott that scored Walker Grisanti. But that was all the Redskins mustered as Prairie Gravel pitcher Connor Manous shut down the Midland line the rest of the way.
"Connor was outstanding. Outstanding. I'm sorry we gave up that one run, that's a shame," Sorce said. "It's always important and always nice to see our starters go a complete game. I think he threw maybe 75 pitches for the whole game, which is outstanding."
Prairie Gravel added to its lead in the top of the seventh inning.
After a lead-off single from Jake VanderWal, Jack Yalowitz dropped a double into the gap in left center that scored VanderWal from first base and pushed the lead to 6-1.
Yalowitz scored on the next at-bat, which saw a high chopper from Eierman get past Midland shortstop Ethan Skender, to make it 7-1.
Sorce said he wants his team to keep playing hard in today's match against Midland, knowing the chance to play for the title in the program's first trip to the Connie Mack World Series is on the line.
"Keep playing hard," Sorce said, of his message to his team. "If we have to play two games, we play two games. We just have to keep playing hard."
Leading batters: Jeremy Eierman, HR; Jordan Muffley, 1B, 2 RBIs
WP: Connor Manous
Leading batter: Stephen Scott, RBI
LP: Patrick Raby