FARMINGTON – One more victory is all that the Mineral Area All-Star team needs to reserve a place in the 16-year-old Babe Ruth League World Series. MABA advanced to the championship round of the Midwest Plains Regional tournament on Sunday with a convincing 14-4 win in five innings over the Minnesota state champions at Wilson-Rozier Park in Farmington.
With temperatures soaring above triple digits, Mineral Area scorched the scoreboard with five runs in the second and fourth innings in a dominant performance over a team believed by many to be a top contender for the tournament title.
Minnesota threatened to take the lead in the top of the second following a quiet opening frame. Mineral Area starter Dustin Bess issued back-to-back walks with two outs, but escaped danger when shortstop Ronnie Calvird ranged left to field a slow ground ball on the short-hop, and recovered his own mid-air bobble in time to throw the batter out at first base. The dazzling defensive display was just beginning for host team.
A one-out single by Eric Koppeis in the home half of the second was the first MABA hit. Logan Smith then reached on an error while executing a sacrifice bunt, and Bess battled for several pitches before ripping a RBI single to center with two outs, opening the door to an offensive barrage.
Chad Moss delivered a timely two-run double to the left-center gap to make the score 3-0. The ensuing batter, Calvird plugged the power alley in right for a RBI triple, and scored when Aaron Blunt found the same gap with a double.
Bess capped a 2-for-2 day at the plate with a RBI single in the third to increase the margin to 6-0, but Minnesota countered with a scoring outburst of its own in the fourth inning.
Ben Meacham singled with one out and scored from first base on a RBI double by Mark Bader. A wild pitch eventually allowed Bader to score, and two more walks led to more trouble as Billy Stitz and Josh Threlkeld connected for RBI singles to cut the deficit to 6-4.
Minnesota loaded the bases following another single, but Bess induced a ground ball to avoid further damage. Bess persevered through five innings with seven hits allowed to earn the win for MABA.
Mineral Area continued to pound the baseball in the fourth inning. A pair of walks set up a RBI single to center by Tyler Beers, and Koppeis followed with another hit to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Josh Jaco smashed a single which cleared the bases after being misplayed in center field to make it 10-4. Jaco then raced home on a squeeze bunt by Jimmy Thompson.
Minnesota put two men on base in the fifth, but Koppeis robbed Stitz of an extra-base hit with a tumbling catch in right-center to abort the rally. Koppeis also made what proved to a crucial and tremendous diving catch in the third inning to preserve what was a shutout.
Mineral Area scored three times in the bottom of the fifth to invoke the 10-run rule. Another RBI single by Beers was the only hit during the frame, and Derek Stroup scored on a wild pitch as Kody Martin walked to end it.
Koppeis scored three runs and was 2-for-2 in the contest for MABA, while Beers finished the action 2-for-4 and Calvird was 1-for-2 with three runs scored.
Threlkeld led Minnesota by going 2-for-3 and Bader reached base during all three of his plate appearances for Minnesota. Phil Solyntjes pitched three innings with one earned run allowed in the loss.
Minnesota will battle Dexter, Missouri tonight at 5:30 p.m. in an elimination game for the right to play Mineral Area in the finals at 8 p.m.
Minnesota – 000 40 – 4 7 5
Mineral Area – 051 53 – 14 10 0
WP – Bess 5i 4r 7h 1k 5bb 1hb.
LP – Solyntjes 3i 6r 1er 6h 0k 0bb 2hb.
Minnesota – Threlkeld 2, Stitz, Johnson, Meacham, Bader, Lieser. 2b – Bader.
Mineral Area – Koppeis 2, Beers 2, Bess 2, Moss, Calvird, Blunt, Jaco. 2b – Moss, Blunt. 3b – Calvird.