Connecticut pushes seven total runs across the plate in the fifth and sixth innings and wins 9-4
FARMINGTON — The Connecticut Bombers out of Hamden, Conn., used fifth- and sixth-inning rallies to get past Top Tier 9-4 in Game 5 of the Connie Mack World Series tonight at Ricketts Park.
Top Tier, of Chicago, sent Michael Sebby to the mound to pitch, and the Illinois State commit had mixed results. He was tagged for a pair of runs in the first inning before settling in for a few innings, but he began to power down in the fifth and wound up allowing five earned runs and taking the loss.
Top Tier relievers didn't exactly extinguish any fires, and coach Steve Libman thought his staff put too many men on base.
"We just gave up too many free bases," Libman said. "(Sebby) threw some very good innings. His fastball was hot, his slider was biting pretty well for a few innings, but I think when we got to that fifth inning, it was time to make a move."
Before Sebby lost a bit of control in the fifth, his teammates helped dig Top Tier out of the two-run hole it fell into after the opening inning.
Top Tier catcher Kellen Sarver pushed Robby McGaha across the plate with a sacrifice grounder in the second inning, and in the third, center fielder Michael Kruse displayed some heads-up base running by advancing to score during a botched double-play attempt by Bombers infielders.
With the game tied 2-2 in the fifth, Sebby gave up two hits and walked a batter before he was yanked in favor of Michigan State commit Sam Benschoter, who walked in a run, hit a batter to let in another run and then threw a wild pitch to assist the Bombers to a 5-2 advantage.
Seeing themselves cross the plate gave the Bombers the boost they needed to start driving the ball, according to coach Greg Simler.
"They brought the relief pitcher in, who I thought was throwing the ball pretty well, and we just happened to take advantage of a few miscues," he said. "That took a little heat off the offense, so we could relax a little bit."
After benefiting from erratic pitching in the fifth, the Bombers lineup gained confidence to start making good contact with the baseball in the sixth.
John Thrasher mashed an RBI double in the sixth to open the scoring, and with two outs, Mike Caruso and Zach Ardito came through with back-to-back RBI singles, which brought in three total runs to blow the game open. Simler said the clutch hitting was a welcomed sight.
"Those were huge hits, especially with two outs and especially with runners on base," Simler said. "That helped really put the game at ease for us."
Top Tier will face elimination when the team squares off against the Midland Redskins at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. And Libman said Top Tier will need to create more rallies than it did tonight after managing four separate one-run innings.
"We got runners on base and just couldn't get that one big hit to get guys in early on the game," Libman said. "We're a grinding team, we find a way to get guys on base, but now we gotta bring them home."
Top Tier stranded eight runners in the game compared to five for the Bombers.
A scary moment occurred in the bottom of the seventh when Thrasher, a center fielder, dove for a hard-hit ball that grazed off his glove and misdirected into his face. He lay motionless on the field for several minutes before walking off under his own power.
Simler said Thrasher will be evaluated in the next two days before a decision is made on his availability for the rest of the tournament, which continues for the Bombers at noon Monday at Ricketts Park against the East Cobb Yankees.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.
Leading hitters: Zach Ardito, 2 for 3, 3 RBIs. John Thrasher, 2 for 5, RBI, 2 R, SB
WP: Dylan Reynolds
Leading hitters: Michael Kruse, 2 for 3, 2B, BB, R. Robby McGaha, RBI, 2B, R
LP: Michael Sebby