FARMINGTON — The 2016 Connie Mack World Series kicked off in dramatic fashion today as D-BAT Elite 17U picked up a 6-5 win over the Colton Nighthawks in Game 1, thanks to a two-out, two-RBI walk-off single from Braden Merritt at Ricketts Park here.
D-BAT, out of Dallas, entered the bottom of the seventh inning down 5-3. But the players didn't panic and instead showed resiliency, something they have done all summer, according to coach Ryan Robertson.
"Even in the Don Mattingly qualifier, we had to get through a 15-inning game," Robertson said. "I mean, these kids never give up. To do what we talked about all year long, stay within yourself, don't try to do too much, just put the ball in play. They did all of that."
The Nighthawks, of Colton, Calif., got a major boost from shortstop and No. 9 hitter Cole McKissock, who went 3 for 3 in the game with four RBIs and finished a triple shy of the cycle.
McKissock, committed to Chipola Junior College in Florida, gave his Nighthawks a 1-0 lead in the second inning by legging out an RBI infield single. He then one upped himself with an RBI double in the fourth to make it 2-0 Nighthawks.
But in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Nighthawks left-handed starter. David Barela, ran into trouble after zooming through the first four frames without letting in a run.
Barela struck out seven batters over four innings before suddenly losing his control and hitting three of the first four D-BAT hitters who stepped to the plate in the fifth. Barela was pulled in favor of Josh Sieglitz, who couldn't bail his teammate out, giving up RBI base knocks to Braxton Fulford and Cole Maxwell, which allowed D-BAT to snatch a 3-2 lead.
McKissock answered quickly with a two-run homer in the top of the sixth as part of a three-run Nighthawk rally to retake the lead 5-3. McKissock took a Luke Scaggs hanging curveball and smoked it over the left-field wall. Coach Robertson brought Scaggs in to relieve starter Grayson Rodriguez — who had thrown 85 pitches — immediately before the sixth.
"Luke, all year long, has been a workhorse for us, and it just wasn't his day today," Robertson said. "But I promise you, he'll be ready to go next time. The team picked him up."
A throwing error on McKissock got the bottom of the seventh inning off on the wrong foot for Colton. Sieglitz brushed it off by recording a fly out, and then Jonathan Longtin came in to strike out Maxwell. But that's when D-BAT really hunkered down.
Jackson Kennemore and Garrett Wright — D-BAT's No. 7 and 8 hitters — each coaxed walks out of Longtin. Wright's walk, which was with the bases loaded, came on a full count and a questionable ball-four call — one Nighthawks coach Ruben Montano didn't appreciate.
"You just saw the little difference in the umpire call. I hate to blame them, but at the end of the day we should have got the job done," Montano said. "You just want consistency."
The right-handed hitting Merritt made the comeback complete by turning on a pitch and singling just past the outstretched bodies of McKissock and third baseman Matt Dyer to bring two runners around and kick start the celebration.
Montano said he's looking forward to seeing what his team is made of after the heartbreaking loss.
"A lot of these guys have been down and out before and sometimes it's good to play with their backs against the wall and see what they're made of," Montano said. "It builds character."
D-BAT will next play the Dallas Tigers at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Ricketts Park.
The Nighthawks take a trip to the loser’s bracket for Game 7 against D-BAT Elite 18U at noon Sunday.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.
D-BAT Elite 17U
Leading hitters: Braxton Fulford, 3 for 3, 2 2B, RBI. Cole Maxwell, 2 for 3, RBI, BB, stolen base.
WP: Ryan Stuempfig
Leading hitters: Colton McKissock, 3 for 3, 2B, 3B, HR, 4 RBI. Matthew Dyer, 3 for 3, 3B, RBI.
LP: Jonathan Longtin.