Unbeaten Arizona rolls on at RBI World Series

Unbeaten Arizona rolls on at RBI World Series

Unbeaten Arizona rolls on at RBI World Series
MINNEAPOLIS -- No Senior Division team may be more confident than Arizona RBI heading into Saturday's Interleague playoffs in the 2012 Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities World Series.

The squad from the Valley of the Sun trailed Jackie Robinson RBI for 5 1/2 innings of Friday's round-robin game at Parade Stadium. But Arizona pushed across two runs in the sixth and the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the seventh for a wild walk-off win, 3-2.

"It's one of those games where we came out -- it took them a while to kind of wake up and thaw out," Arizona manager John Jacobs said. "We were a little bit tight. I just told them, 'Hey, go out and have fun.' I told them I don't care what you do, but do it with a smile. They got the smiles on their faces, and we pushed two across. Then we got that runner on [in the seventh]. Baseball's funny like that sometimes."

Arizona was the only Senior Division club to go 3-0 in round-robin play. The Interleague playoffs portion will take place on Saturday.

Jackie Robinson RBI shut out Arizona on five hits through the first five innings, taking a 2-0 lead after a sacrifice fly and an RBI single in the first. Arizona struggled to string together hits for most of the game until Daniel Cabral's double drove in two runs in the sixth.

Defense may have helped fully swing momentum in Arizona's favor in the top of the seventh. Second baseman Camilo Ruiz robbed Andres Santana with a spectacular leaping backhanded catch to record the first out of the inning.

"You could see the tide completely turned," Jacobs said. "After that, the next two guys got out pretty easy. ... Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good."

Arizona completed its rally in the seventh despite not tallying another hit. Joseph Melchor led off by reaching on a one-out error from shortstop Jose Gonzalez. The Jackie Robinson squad elected to issue two intentional walks to put forceouts at every base, but Jacob Potts -- who pinch-ran for Melchor -- came home on a wild pitch from reliever Joshua Felix.

Two of Arizona's round-robin wins came in come-from-behind fashion, as its 2-1 win over Harrisburg on Thursday was made possible by Cipriano Lucero's walk-off hit.

As the top seed in the Senior Division's North League, Arizona will play South League No. 4 seed Bradenton (Fla.) in a playoff quarterfinal matchup on Saturday at Parade Stadium at 9 a.m. ET.

"We play every game hard," Jacobs said after Friday's win, not yet knowing who his team's opponent would be. "Whoever's next we're going to go hard. We don't know who it is. We don't really care. We're just going to come and do our thing, and do it with a smile."

It's often said that pitching wins championships, and the Harrisburg Senior RBI team is hoping that reigns true this weekend.

Harrisburg capped its 2-1 record in round-robin play on Friday with a 6-1 victory over Think Detroit PAL. The squad enters Saturday's playoffs with the lowest team ERA (0.69) and most strikeouts (22) in the Senior Division.

Manager Rob Martin elected to use essentially a "bullpen day" approach, relying on the foursome of Anthony Atticks, Kyle McClintock, Sadiq Burkholder, and Reid Demyan, who combined to allow one unearned run on five hits over seven innings. The staff also combined for 10 strikeouts.

But perhaps more importantly, Harrisburg's offense broke out after totaling six runs in its first two games. It totaled 10 hits with eight players accounting for at least one.

"It was contagious," Martin said. "I told them before the game, 'Look, this is the game you break out with hitting. You carry over the momentum from yesterday and just start hitting the ball here.' "

Harrisburg should prove to be a formidable opponent in Saturday's playoffs if its offense can continue to back up its stellar staff. South League No. 3 seed Houston, which went 1-2 in round-robin play, will look to pierce Harrisburg's stingy pitching in a quarterfinal game at 11:45 a.m. at Toni Stone Field.

"We have great pitching," Martin said. "We've held our opponents down to very low runs in both the regional and this tournament thus far. So we know once we get our hitting in order as we did today, we are a very tough team."

Saturday's other quarterfinals include South top seed Chicago White Sox RBI against Jackie Robinson RBI at 9 a.m. at Toni Stone Field. Second-seeded Venezuela will face Think Detroit at 11:45 at Parade Stadium.

Junior Division: Eight Junior Division games were also played on Friday after only four games on Thursday. Venice Boys & Girls Club enters Saturday's playoffs 3-0 after outscoring its competition 26-4 in three round-robin games, including 11-2 and 9-1 wins on Friday over Detroit PAL and Jersey City, respectively.

Venice's potent offense is paced by Duncan McKinnon, who posted a .455 average with a monster 1.084 OPS in three games. Meanwhile, Venice's starting pitching trio of Guillermo Alcantar, Dalton Blumenfeld, and Deandrey Carter threw a combined 15 innings in the three victories, allowing just three earned runs on 15 hits.

The kids from Southern California will need a win against Arlington Boys & Girls Club on Saturday at 9 a.m. at Neiman Athletic Complex to advance to a semifinal matchup later that day.

After beginning the tournament 2-0, the two-time defending champion Dominican Republic team sputtered slightly in its last round-robin game, dropping a 12-1 defeat at the hands of RBI Atlanta. The result makes Atlanta the No. 1 seed in the South League, pitting it against North No. 4 Think Detroit PAL at 9 a.m.

Meanwhile, the Dominican team will take on Jersey City at 11:45 a.m. at Neiman Athletic Complex. The final quarterfinal game will see Harrisburg against Chicago at 11:45, also at Neiman Athletic Complex.

Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.