Connie Mack World Series down to final four

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON − A new Connie Mack World Series champion will be crowned this weekend when capacity crowds are expected to jam Ricketts Park to see three games on Friday and perhaps an "if necessary" game on Saturday.

The final four teams for this year's series came to light Thursday evening when the Florida Legends eliminated the Southern California Renegades by a final of 8-6 in a fourth round contest.

Earlier in the day, the Colton (Calif.) Nighthawks staved off elimination for the third straight day, knocking off UBC National in a slugfest by a final of 16-12. The Nighthawks lost Monday's opening bracket play game to the Renegades, but have now won three straight heading into the weekend.

And in a battle of the two unbeaten teams in the tournament, 16-time CMWS Midland outlasted Dallas-based D-Bat United by a final of 4-2 on Thursday night. Both teams were guaranteed to play on Friday since neither team had lost a game in bracket play coming into this clash.

Friday's action began at Ricketts Park at 1 p.m. when D-Bat United faced the Legends. The game was pushed back from an original start time of 11:45 a.m. after nearly half an inch of rain in the early morning hours in Farmington. Following the D-Bat vs. Legends game will be a showdown between Midland and the Nighthawks. That game will take place 30-45 minutes after the conclusion of the opening game.

How and when a champion will be determined will depend on the results of those two early games.

The winner of the D-Bat vs. Legends game goes to the finals. However, should the Nighthawks beat Midland Friday afternoon, Midland would face elimination from the tournament when battling either D-Bat or the Legends Friday evening. The hope is that the late game will start as close as possible to the originally scheduled start time of 6:30 p.m.

If Midland wins over the Nighthawks, they would need to win only once against the Legends or D-Bat to secure the title. They could win the trophy Friday evening, or if necessary, Saturday at 5 p.m.

The change in the schedule to the final days of the tournament was announced earlier this week, largely to accommodate CBS Sports Network's coverage of the championship game. The American Amateur Baseball Congress announced earlier this year a deal with the network to broadcast the game. AABC president Richard Neely hopes the added exposure for the tournament on television will attract tourism dollars and help boost the local economy.

"This is such a huge opportunity for us, and with the teams we have here this week, I expect it will be a full house at Ricketts," Neely said this week. "That will go such a long way for people in this town who've worked so hard to make the tournament what it is."

The weather forecast may dampen some of the plans for the weekend. According to the latest National Weather Service forecast, there is a 70 percent chance of Friday afternoon showers, mainly after 3 p.m. with those showers lingering well into the night. The rain has already played havoc with tournament games this week, particularly on Tuesday when a game was delayed for more than 3 1/2 hours due to lightning strikes.

Here's a look at how things played out on the field Thursday at Ricketts Park.

Midland doubles up on D-Bat to remain unbeaten

The Midland Baseball team, led by pitcher Ethan McElvain, moved on to the championship round of the 2022 Connie Mack World Series after a 4-2 victory over D-Bat United Thursday night at Ricketts Park.

McElvain, who went four innings to pick up the win, struck out eight batters and surrendered only two hits and two walks in a dominant performance between the two remaining unbeaten teams left in the tournament bracket.

The victory allows Midland to be the lone team who can win the CMWS title on Friday should they prevail in the semifinal game over the Colton Nighthawks, then come back to win the title game against either D-Bat United or the Florida Legends on Friday night.

Midland Baseball's Riley Nelson avoids the tag and safely slides into second base in the top of the second inning during pool play action of the Connie Mack World Series on Saturday, July 23, 2022 at the Sports Complex.

Midland struck first in the contest, getting a run across in the bottom of the first inning when Riley Nelson drove in leadoff hitter Phoenix Meza, who started out the night with a double to right field.

Midland padded to their lead in the bottom of the third inning, scoring three more times. Nelson drove in a pair of runs with a single that scored both Meza and Tate Farquhar, followed by a bases-loaded sacrifice fly off the bat of Isaac Wachsmann that scored Luke Vaughn to give Midland a 4-0 lead.

That was all the cushion the Midland pitching staff would need. McElvain was replaced in the fifth inning on the mound by Diego Alvarez, who struck out five and allowed only a pair of runs on two hits to finish out the contest.

D-Bat's lone offensive highlight came in the top of the sixth inning when Tavion Vaughns smacked a 2-run homerun to narrow Midland's lead in half. For Vaughns, who's been one of the leading producers at the plate during the series, the homerun adds to his total of five runs and three RBIs while going 5-for-11 at the plate this week.

Alvarez responded by striking out three of the next five batters he faced to end the contest.

D-Bat will attempt to stave off elimination Friday at 11:45 a.m. against the Florida Legends. The winner of that game will move on to the championship round to face either Midland or Colton.

Legends outscore Renegades 8-6

The Florida Legends are one step closer to a championship game appearance after eliminating the Southern California Renegades 8-6 Thursday night in the fourth round of the Connie Mack World Series.

The Legends have a 3-1 record in the CMWS bracket play, having won their opening game over Elite Squad Gulf South on Monday. Their only loss in the bracket came Tuesday, when they fell short to the Midland Baseball team by a final of 4-3. The Legends have since bounced back in two consolation games, Wednesday night over the 505 Panthers and continuing with a win over the Renegades.

The victory means the Legends will tackle D-Bat United for the right to compete for the Connie Mack World Series crown. That game is set for Friday at 11:45 a.m. at Ricketts Park.

The Legends were eliminated in the Connie Mack World Series semifinals last year by Midland and are still in search of their first CMWS title. For D-Bat United, they lost the championship game last year to the Enid (Okla.) Majors and are looking for their second straight championship game appearance.

The Renegades finish their CMWS tournament run with a record of 5-2, having swept through their pool play competition and winning their first two games in bracket play. Back-to-back losses to D-Bat United and finally to the Legends brings an end to their campaign.

Nighthawks capture slugfest over UBC National

The Colton Nighthawks won a shootout at Ricketts Park, outlasting UBC National by a final of 16-12. Cristien Banda hit a grand slam in a six-run second inning that put the Nighthawks out in front 7-3. UBC National rallied to draw within one run in the bottom of the bottom of the third inning in a game that featured 28 runs, 27 hits, nine walks and six errors.

Leading 7-4, Colton padded their lead, scoring four runs in both the fourth and fifth innings before the UBC National team rallied again, scoring three runs in the fifth, a run in the sixth and twice in the bottom of the seventh inning. Their rally fell short when relief pitcher Matt Hudson struck out both Addison Brown and Jake Morgan with the bases loaded to end the game.

The Nighthawks will move on to Friday, when they will face Midland. Colton has staved off elimination in three consecutive games after losing their tournament opener on Monday to the Renegades. They have since rattled off convincing wins against the Albuquerque Baseball Academy, the Dulin Dodgers and the UBC National, having outscored those three opponents by a combined margin of 40-21. The Midland vs. Colton game is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Ricketts Park.

UBC National exits the tournament with an overall record of 2-5.