FARMINGTON— When 4-Corners and Strike Zone met on the diamond Monday night at Ricketts Park for their Connie Mack regular season game it was Strike Zone that came away with an 8-4 victory.
But despite the matchup of two of the top teams in the league both teams' coaching staffs were quick to avoid placing too much emphasis on the outcome.
It's true the two teams are among the favorites to advance out of July's city tournament and earn the honor of hosting the 2014 Connie Mack World Series, but like the rest of the regular season, Monday night's game was just another starting point for the teams.
"We've been doing this for so long now we know it's a whole process getting ready for July," said Strike Zone head coach Adam Morrissey. "We know they (4-Corners), Naa'taanii, the whole league is going to be competitive going through, as it is every year."
While the two teams look at the matchup as little more than a scrimmage, it was entertaining for the fans.
The two traded runs in the first inning with 4-Corners getting on the board after right fielder Dalton Watson drew a two-out walk with the bases loaded in the top, and Strike Zone answering when center fielder Austin Davis batted in Casey Dunlap from third.
The 4-Corners bats cooled in the second, as Strike Zone starter Warren McKenney began feeling more comfortable on the mound, but the Strike Zone offense kept connecting, scoring three runs in the bottom of the inning.
With two on and two outs Strike Zone second baseman Casey Dunlap blasted the ball over the outstretched glove of 4-Corners' center fielder Kody Russell. The ball reached the wall in center before Russell recovered, allowing two runs to score on the triple. Dunlap would go on to score on an RBI single from Matthew Knickerbocker on the next at bat to make it 4-1 Strike Zone.
After a scoreless third inning action picked back up in the fourth as throwing errors sparked rallies for both teams.
With one out 4-Corners caught a break when designated hitter Heyden Sill reached first on a throwing error by Strike Zone catcher Kelton McCoy. The Strike Zone mishap was just enough to swing the momentum in favor of 4-Corners. Russell kept things going, singling into left, and two batters later, Sill touched home when Zach Ahlgrim hit a two-out double into the left corner. Then, with runners at second and third, Tristin Rizek hit a hard shot down the third base line that hopped over the bag to stay fair. Russell and Ahlgrin, running on contact, scored with ease to tie the game 4-4 while Rizek's slide into third after his aggressive base running caught the Strike Zone left fielder off guard.
Leading off the inning in the bottom of the fourth, a throwing error by Rizek at second base allowed Rashawn Sorrelhorse to safely reach first for Strike Zone. Sorrelhorse would later score on an Austin Davis grounder up the middle that also drove in Mayberry from second to make it 6-4 Strike Zone.
Strike Zone added a pair of insurance runs in the fifth and sixth innings with an RBI double from Dunlap and when the 4-Corners pitcher was called for a balk with runners on the corners.
Although Strike Zone got the win it didn't come without the team's share of mistakes.
"We just got to keep working," Morrissey said of the performance. "We (the coaching staff) were just telling them (the players) that we need to just execute in games and make plays. When you play good teams like (4-Corners) you want to minimize mistakes."
While his team also had its share of mishaps Monday night, 4-Corners head coach Brett Alexander said one of the keys to his team success will be building better team chemistry.
"The biggest thing we need to take away from this is that we just got to come together as a team," Alexander said.
4-Corners will get its first road trip as a team this weekend when they travel to Pueblo, Colo., for a tournament. Alexander said weekend tournaments like Pueblo are major factors in creating the cohesiveness he is looking for.
"Other than that we're not worried," Alexander said. "We have a long summer ahead of us."