By Travis Mounts
The Cheney Diamond Dawgs dropped their opening game at the National Baseball Congress World Series on Saturday, but bounced back for a win on Monday.
The Diamond Dawgs – third-place finishers a year ago – bypassed the NBC’s play-in week by earning a guaranteed spot in championship week.
Championship week starts with a pool-play format, with four teams competing in each of four pools. Cheney and San Diego are in Pool D along with the Colorado Cyclones and Colorado Black Bears.
Cheney lost 8-7 to the San Diego Waves on Saturday night at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita, but won 9-3 win the Colorado Black Bears on Monday afternoon.
Also in Pool D, the Cyclones beat the Black Bears 10-1 on Saturday afternoon. On Monday night, the Cyclones beat the Waves 9-7.
The top two teams in each pool will advance to an eight-team, single-elimination bracket. The single-elimination portion of the tournament begins this Thursday. Cheney’s final pool game is at 7 p.m. Wednesday against the Cyclones, and a win would greatly enhance the Diamond Dawgs’ chances of advancing.
It’s possible Cheney’s future will come down to tiebreakers. If Cheney and San Diego win on Wednesday, they will be in three-way tie with the Cyclones at 2-1. A Cheney loss combined with a Black Bears win also would create a three-way tie, with Cheney, the Black Bears and the Waves at 1-2. A San Diego win combined with a Cheney loss would end the Diamond Dawgs’ run.
Cheney found itself in an early hole on Saturday. Starting pitcher Robert Calvano walked San Diego’s first two batters in the bottom of the first, and those base runners eventually scored. Calvano struggled into the second inning, allowing two more base runners in the second before being pulled from the game. San Diego took advantage in both innings, scoring a pair of runs per inning for a 4-0 lead over Cheney.
The Diamond Dawgs got it all back in the third inning, thanks to some help from the Waves’ pitching. The Diamond Dawgs loaded the bases with two walks before Wade Raburn was hit by a pitch.
A single by Brandon Pruitt drove in a run. Jackson Glenn then drew a walk, which scored another run.
Andrew Miller’s sacrifice fly drove home a run, cutting San Diego’s lead to 4-3 and leaving runners on first base and third base.
Then came a truly bizarre double play. Tresten Kennard hit a pop fly to short right field and was out when the Waves made the catch. However, it appeared most players thought it was the third out. Pruitt, seeing the defense pause after the out, sprinted home while Glenn took off for second. The Waves realized Glenn had not tagged up and threw the ball to first to complete a double play and end the inning.
However, because Glenn was not out on a force play – and because the play happened after Pruitt came home – the run counted and Cheney tied the game 4-4.
San Diego retook the lead 7-4 with a 3-run fifth inning. Cheney got 2 runs back in the top of the sixth. The rally started with a long shot to left-centerfield by Kennard that bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double. Kyler Castillo then got on base thanks to a throwing error by the San Diego shortstop, while Kennard advance to third.
San Diego then misplayed a fly ball hit by Cheney’s Hunter Douglas, which allowed Kennard to score. Douglas ended up on second base while Castillo went to third. Castillo then scored on a sacrifice by John Russ.
The Diamond Dawgs tied the game in the ninth inning. Leadoff hitter Raburn singled up the middle up. A few pitches later, he stole second base but the throw went into the outfield, and Raburn ran to third. A passed ball allowed Raburn to come home, tying the game 7-7.
The Diamond Dawgs were sat down in order in the top of the 10th inning.
San Diego wasted little time in the bottom of the inning. Bryan Rosario hit a blooper down the left field line for a double, and advanced to third on a bouncing ground ball by Mitch Moralez. Kiel Palm then hit a hard liner to right field where Cheney’s Douglas made a diving attempt. He had the ball for a moment, but it came out of his glove. The catch would not have mattered, as Rosario had plenty of time to tag up and score.
Cheney again had a rough start Monday, giving up 3 runs to the Black Bears in the top of the first inning. With a runner on third, Colorado took a 1-0 lead on a wild pitch. Following a walk, Thomas Craig hit a 2-run home run to give Colorado a 3-0 lead.
But the Diamond Dawgs did not surrender another run to the Black Bears, with eight shut-out innings.
Meanwhile, the Diamond Dawgs got their offense rolling, scoring runs in the third through seventh innings, highlighted by 2 runs in the fourth inning and 4 runs in the sixth.
Miller scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt Scheurich in the fourth inning, and Kennard scored on a double by Douglas.
Cheney loaded the bases in the sixth inning, scoring a run on a sacrifie by Brandon Pruitt. With two outs, Glenn hit a 3-run homer, scoring Raburn and Glenn.
Starter Sean McElwee pitched two innings for Cheney, Kory Haught came on in the third and pitched six innings, giving up just two hits and striking out five batters to collect the win. Albertus Barber came into the game during the ninth inning to face the final two batters, getting a fly out to center and a double play to pick up the save.