Redskins erase a 7-2 deficit to stave off elimination
FARMINGTON — A wild, error-riddled Game 14 went Midland's way today at Ricketts Park when the Cincinnati team scored 12 unanswered runs to defeat EnFuego Elite 14-7 in the Connie Mack World Series.
The Seattle-based EnFuego Elite shocked the Redskins (2-1) by scoring five runs in the top of the third inning, and extended that lead to 7-2 by the midway point of the fourth. But a bevvy of errors and bad defensive decision making opened a door for Midland, and the storied amateur baseball club marched right through it.
JJ Bleday, Midland's right fielder and No. 3 hitter, hit a game-winning, two-run home run in the sixth. He said he preached serenity to his teammates when EnFuego made the early surge.
"I told the guys when they came in, when (EnFuego) scored five runs, 'You can't put pressure on yourself,'" Bleday said. "'You just gotta go with the flow and take it inning by inning and play by play,' and sure enough, we capitalized on some things."
EnFuego (1-2), playing just 12 hours after falling 5-3 to Strike Zone on Monday, put together a five-run third inning that was fueled by a pair of Midland infield errors — making three of the five runs unearned to Midland pitchers. Catcher Zach Inskeep also swatted a solo home run for the underdogs from the Northwest.
But the Redskins wasted no time chipping away at the lead, as a Matt Burch RBI-single and a couple of EnFuego errors helped Midland get two runs back, which gave the Redskins reason for hope.
"We didn't pass (EnFuego) up, but we scored two runs and showed a little bit of life," Bleday said.
All six of EnFuego's errors came after the team took a 5-0 lead. Down 7-2, Midland picked up three runs in the bottom of the fourth and two more in the bottom of the fifth to tie it.
The tying run came on a blundered play by EnFuego in which right fielder Michael Kramer made a great diving catch to record the second out of the inning and apparently had Midland's Brock Mathis doubled up at first base. But first baseman Sam Abbott let Kramer's throw get away from him, and Matt Harrison came around to score from third.
EnFuego coach Steve Avila said he had nothing to say to his players during the meltdown except to keep playing ball.
"All I saw is we booted a bunch of balls. What can you do?" Avila said. "We've been doing this all summer, so what are you going to tell them? 'Hey man, you gotta keep playing.'"
Midland not only took the lead in the bottom of the sixth, they turned the game into a blowout with seven runs. Bleday made his mark on the inning with the homer, which came on a 1-1 fastball from EnFuego reliever Brice Foster.
"I saw a fastball first pitch and thought 'Wow, I probably should have hit that," Bleday said. "Second pitch was a slider, and I didn't swing at it. Then I thought he would come back with another slider, but he didn't, and it was right where I wanted it anyway. I just took a hack at it."
Zac Kohn earned the win by providing the Redskins with stability on the mound. Before he entered the game, three Midland pitchers combined to give up six walks, five hits and two earned runs. Kohn allowed two free passes, just one hit and no runs when he took the ball with two outs in the fourth.
"He came in and righted the ship," Midland coach Dave Evans said of Kohn. "He was a little more consistent throwing strikes."
EnFuego heads home after becoming only the second team from the Northwest region in 39 years to make it to the Connie Mack World Series.
Midland moves on to the fourth round of the series and will face the Southern California Renegades (2-1) at noon Wednesday at Ricketts Park.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.
Leading hitters: JJ Bleday, 2 for 4, HR, 2 RBIs, BB. Matt Harrison, 2 for 3, RBI, 3 R
WP: Zac Kohn
Leading hitters: Zach Inskeep, 2 for 2, HR, RBI, BB. Matt Dietz, 1 for 2, 2B, 2 R
LP: Brice Foster