Dominant all-around effort puts East Cobb in position for back-to-back Connie Mack World Series championships
FARMINGTON — Less than 24 hours after blowing a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning on Thursday, the East Cobb Yankees showed resiliency by downing D-BAT Elite 17U 10-2 tonight in Game 22 of the Connie Mack World Series to advance to the title game.
The Yankees (4-1) ripped 13 hits in what wound up being a shortened game at Ricketts Park, as a Colin Hall RBI single in the bottom of the sixth triggered the eight-run rule.
East Cobb coach James Beavers said his team was eager to prove it was better than it showed late last night.
"I think we wanted to come back out and show people that was just a one-inning thing," Beavers said. "We had a good day hitting, came out with a lot of confidence, and (Garrett Gooden) brings us a lot of confidence on the mound as well."
Gooden, nicknamed "Doc" by his teammates and coaches after former New York Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden, bent but didn't break for the Yankees in a complete-game win. The hard-throwing right hander gave up nine hits and let in two earned runs but was mostly dominant with nine strikeouts, many of which came when D-BAT (4-2) had runners in scoring position.
"His potential is off the charts," Beavers said of Gooden. "He was hitting 87, 88 (miles per hour) late in the game. Then when we needed a punch out with runners on, he'd hit 90, 91."
The teams went back and forth in the middle innings, each scoring one run apiece in four straight half innings. Then, with the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth, East Cobb No. 6 and 7 hitters Billy Zinnershine and Austin Wilhite came through to gain separation for their team.
Zinnershine put East Cobb on top 3-2 with a bloop single to center, and in the next at-bat, Wilhite clubbed a two-RBI double to right center to plate two runs. Wilhite came into the game with a chip on his shoulder after going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts — all of which came with East Cobb runners in scoring position — in his team's Game 21 loss the night before. He said he was thinking too much in that game.
"I came in today knowing I couldn't make the game as mental as I made it last night," Wilhite said. "I came out not trying to do too much, I just stayed simple with it."
Wilhite said he worked on keeping his hands inside the ball in tonight's game, and his work paid off. The Yankees second baseman went 3 for 4 in the game with a walk.
After Gooden blanked D-BAT in the top of the sixth, East Cobb delivered the death blow in the bottom half of the frame with five runs, highlighted by a Zinnershine three-RBI triple, ripped right over the head of Noah Sifrit, who played a very shallow center field against the diminutive infielder.
Beavers said Zinnershine has been huge in East Cobb's push for back-to-back Connie Mack World Series titles.
"What can you say about Billy?" Beavers said. "He just makes contact and hits the ball around the park. What a great hitter he's gonna be."
D-BAT coach Ryan Robertson said East Cobb was simply better than his team in the semifinal game. But he said he told his players not to hang their heads.
"Our kids have played hard, played the game the right way and played with class, and that's all I've asked," Robertson said. "These kids were relentless in getting here, and then they didn't let up; they were relentless in every game here. We gave it a valiant effort and just came up short, but I couldn't be more proud of my kids."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.
East Cobb Yankees
Leading hitters: Billy Zinnershine, 3 for 4, 3 RBIs, 3 R. Tucker Maxwell, 2 for 4, RBI, 2 2B, 2 R
WP: Garrett Gooden
D-BAT Elite 17U
Leading hitters: Heston Kjerstad, 2 for 3, 2B. Braxton Fulford, 2 for 3, RBI, R
LP: Michael Leaumont