With a trip to the Midwest days later on their minds, the Cheney Studs closed out their regular season with a 7-4 loss to the Everett Merchants on July 27 at Heidelberg Park, as lefty JoJo Howie pitched eight solid innings in shutting the Studs down for the second time this year.
Despite the loss, the Studs finish the year with an overall record of 38-10, earning them a bid to the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. for the 11th straight season.
“It’s one of those deals where we’ve already kind of mentally arrived in Kansas,” said head coach Barry Aden of the loss to Everett. “In the year’s past we’ve not really played well in this game because we’ve locked up the league championship, locked up the west coast championship.”
Aaron Gates’ run-scoring single off Studs starter David Benson gave the Merchants a 1-0 lead in the first inning, and Sam Parris added a two-run double off of Stuart Gano in the third to make it 3-0.
Howie was dominant for the Merchants, meanwhile, limiting the Studs to just one hit in the first five innings, at one point retiring 11 straight batters.
“He’s put together a tremendous string of innings against us,” said Aden. “He’s pretty good.”
The Studs finally got on the board in the sixth when Bobby Joe Tannehill singled to score Kyle Sutherland, but the Merchants answered with four runs in the top of the seventh. Parris walked with the bases loaded to score Ryan Sells, Ethan Yeo singled to score Bo Folkinga and David Amberson reached on a fielding error to bring in Parris and Yeo. The Studs got two runs back in the bottom of the ninth when Caleb Brown singled and later scored on a throwing error and Derek Jennings later singled to score Brian Embery, but Jennings was thrown out at second base to end the game.
“Everett’s a solid opponent,” Aden said. “They always seem to challenge us as our rival. We’re going (to Kansas), they’re not. They had a little more to play for today as far as pride is concerned. We just kind of went through the motions tonight.”
Aden added that having won 24 of their last 28 games, the Studs carried a great deal of momentum as they travelled to the NBC World Series, where they were scheduled to play on Aug. 1 against the Conejo Oaks. He noted that pitching and defense will have to be the key to success, as the Studs staff carries an earned run average of below 2.00 heading into the tournament.
“We’ve been able to just wait around for the offense to figure it out – even in late scenarios in the game – and know that we’re going to keep rolling pitchers out there that they can’t touch,” Aden said. “That’s what we’ve been living on, and hopefully it will be the same for us (in Kansas).”