FARMINGTON — In a battle between two unbeaten teams in the Connie Mack City Tournament, one mistake seemed to swing the game in favor of the Flat Bill Ducks and propel them to a 6-0 victory over the Fuel tonight at Ricketts Park.
The two teams dueled through the first three innings with the pitchers — Sergio Lucero for the Fuel and Keaton Christy for the Ducks — keeping their opposition off balance.
With the game scoreless heading to the bottom of the fourth, the Ducks caught a break and took advantage. Flat Bill’s Zach Taylor hit a routine fly ball to the Fuel’s Brandon Zastrow in center field that he appeared to catch, but the umpire in the field ruled that the ball came out of the center fielder's glove, leaving Taylor safe at first.
The call that Zastrow did not control the ball drew the ire of Fuel head coach Kim Carpenter, who said he had no doubts that the ball fell to the ground after Zastrow made the catch cleanly and simply dropped the ball when making the exchange from his glove to his hand.
“It was definitely a momentum changer. There’s no question that it was on the flip,” Carpenter said. “The umpires make the call and realized that the call was made prematurely, but they stuck to their guns, and I respect them for that.”
The mishap was enough to spark the Ducks, who got hits in their next three at-bats, including RBI singles from Beau Crawford and Adalfo Ituvalde to make it 2-0.
“Zach hit a good ball to center field and, unfortunately for them, (Zastrow) dropped the ball, and it kind of snowballed from there. We just took advantage of their mistake,” Flat Bill coach Brett Alexander said. “After that, I think it loosened up the dugout a little bit and allowed us the opportunity to put some runs on the board.”
The Ducks added to their lead in the bottom of the sixth when Robert Rodriguez hit a deep fly to center that Zastrow couldn’t hang on to, allowing Derek Baca to score from second. The error in center again proved to ignite Flat Bill.
The Ducks got RBIs during the next two at-bats, including a triple to the wall in right field from Gabe Valdez that extended the lead to 5-0. Valdez later scored on a passed ball to make it 6-0.
Christy, a senior to be at Farmington High School, earned the complete game win for the Ducks and held the Fuel, which is made up of almost entirely FHS players, to just two hits in the game.
“I’ve seen Keaton throw a number of times for Farmington, and he’s extremely competitive, and that’s what you want in a pitcher. He’s not one to back away from a challenge,” Alexander said.
Five teams — the Ducks, Fuel, Rivercats, Strike Zone and 4-Corners — remain alive after three rounds of the tournament. Strike Zone drew a bye for the fourth round and will have Thursday off. Thursday’s two games will feature the Fuel meeting 4-Corners at 5:30 p.m., followed by the Ducks facing off against the RIvercats at 8. The Ducks and the Rivercats are the only unbeaten teams left in the bracket.
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.