Strike Zone pitches, small balls its way to 2-1 victory in the nightcap of the first day of the Connie Mack World Series
FARMINGTON — A Drew Gillespie complete-game masterpiece earned the Connie Mack World Series host team a rare win in the tournament, as Strike Zone toppled the Southern California Renegades 2-1 tonight in Game 3 at Ricketts Park.
"First win for us in at least four or five years," Strike Zone coach Adam Morrissey said. "I'm definitely going to let these guys have fun with this one, and then we'll refocus in a couple days."
Gillespie, a recent Sandia High School graduate, showed no fear on the mound, pounding the strike zone all night and picking up seven strikeouts in the contest while allowing only five base runners and one earned run.
"My mindset was to pitch for these guys," Gillespie said after the game, pointing at the Strike Zone dugout. "It wasn't about me, it's about how hard these guys have worked all summer to get here after not making it last summer. It's just a blessing for me to be here."
Both pitchers worked quickly but diligently through the first half of the contest in a pitcher's duel of a game that featured 17 total strikeouts.
SoCal starter Tanner Bibee got off to a good start by mowing through Strike Zone's batting order with five punch outs and no runs allowed through three innings, but he had a hiccup in the fourth.
Morrissey deployed small ball in the bottom half of the fourth frame that paid off in the form of the game's first run. Piedra Vista grad Logan Klunder successfully sacrifice bunted Treston Kennard, of Frenship High School in Wolfforth,Texas, to second base before Andrew Laymon drove Kennard home on a single to center.
An inning later, the hosts chased Bibee from the game with two away in the fifth. Jake Jackson took over on the mound for the Renegades and promptly hurled a wild pitch with Gavin Martin on third, and Martin — who crushed a double in the inning — sprinted across home plate to put Strike Zone up 2-0.
The Huntington Beach, Calif., team, coached by Si Pettrow, has made a habit this summer of going to Jackson a little more than midway through games. The move just didn't go as smoothly for the Renegades as it usually has this season.
"We get in trouble or I feel like we're going to get in trouble, we go to (Jackson)," Pettrow said. "That's what we've done all year. And also, Bibee hasn't thrown for us over four innings all year."
Riley Dent gave a jolt to the Renegades in the top of the sixth by blasting a one-out triple down the right-field line. He came in to score later that inning on a Gillespie wild pitch, but Strike Zone got out of the inning shortly after on an inning-ending double play.
In the top of the seventh, Gillespie calmly disposed of SoCal's No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters to seal the win. He said he didn't even think of coming out of the game at any point.
"Honestly, I didn't talk to the coaches or anybody during the game," Gillespie said. "I just kept running out there. If they pulled me aside and told me to stop, I gladly would have watched the next guy go do the job."
Morrissey said Gillespie's game tonight was exactly why the coach brought him up from Albuquerque earlier this summer.
"He was the guy we wanted to go out for this start on the biggest stage, and man, he threw an incredible game," Morrissey said. "Just pounded the zone, had everything working, and he just did a tremendous job."
Strike Zone will get until Monday to rest, when the team takes on the winner of Saturday's MFP Arecibo vs. EnFuego Elite game for a Game 11 battle at 5:15 Monday at Ricketts Park.
The Renegades play the loser of that game at 5:15 Sunday.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.
Leading hitters: Treston Kennard, 1 for 2, BB, R. Gavin Martin, 2B, R.
WP: Drew Gillespie.
Southern California Renegades
Leading hitters: Riley Dent, 3B, R.
LP: Tanner Bibee.