Conner homers as Rutherford outduels Michigan
It was the type of game baseball purist love, a pitching duel that finishes well under the expected game time.
In a contest that sped by in one hour and fifty five minutes, Levi Parks, Jace Crowe, and Josh Searcy outdueled Jeff Landis as Rutherford County defeated Midland Michigan on day two of the Junior League World Series in Taylor, Michigan.
“Our pitching was great tonight,” Rutherford County manager Curtis Snethen said. “It was Levi’s game tonight and he threw the ball well. Jace is our middle relief guy and he was very efficient and Josh closed it out. It was a good night.”
In addition to the pitching, which limited Michigan to just three hits, Joe Conner broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning with a two-run homer to left field, which gave the team a lead they would not relinquish.
“Anytime someone hits a homer, everybody gets excited,” Snethen said. “It sparked our offense, but we had been hitting the ball hard all night. We were eventually going to come through.”
But it was the offense of the Central champions from Midland, Michigan that got on the board in the top of the first. Drew Gandy drew a leadoff walk. Martin Monday followed with a sharp single. One out later, Gandy scored on a RBI fielder’s choice by JP Zaremba to give Michigan a 1-0 lead.
Rutherford County struck back in the bottom of the second. Two errors loaded the bases with one out before Jake Laughter came through with a suicide squeeze, scoring Parks to tie the game at 1-1. Parks then retired six of the next seven Michigan batters he faced. This gave the offense a chance to take the lead and they did just that in the third frame. With two outs, Adam McDowell sent a booming double to the center field fence. Conner followed with a deep line drive over the left field wall. His two-run homer gave Rutherford County a 3-1 lead.
“I was looking for a curveball and [Landis] threw me a hanger,” Conner said. “At first I thought I hit it foul, but then everybody started cheering. I didn’t even see the ball go over the fence. I was in a haze.”
The game then settled into a pitcher’s duel between Parks and Landis. Rutherford did run into a jam in the top of the fifth. Logan Walko singled to lead off the inning, moving to second on an error by left fielder McDowell. Cade Methner singled to put runners on the corners with no outs. Parks settled down and struck out Gandy and got Monday to pop out to second base. Crowe replaced Parks on the mound and struck out Garrett Willis to escape the jam.
Rutherford County used its bench to scratch out an insurance run in their next at bat. Pinch hitter Clint Condrey singled, as did fellow sub Marty Barrella. Pinch runner Josh Searcy was called out on the base paths before pinch hitter Landon Fagan’s ground rule double put runners on second and third. Berrella was lifted for pinch runner McDowell, who came home on a wild pitch to push the advantage to 4-1. Crowe retired the side in the sixth and managed two outs in the seventh, before Searcy nailed down the save and the 4-1 win.
Monday's scheduled game was canceled due to rain. Tournament officials rescheduled the game this Wednesday at 2 p.m. The Rutherford returns to the field today against the East team at 5 p.m.