Mike Foote, the Albuquerque Baseball Academy founder and director, describes the ABA 2021s, an 18U team, as a “bunch of grinders.”
Apparently, the team is made up of a bunch of history-makers, too.
The ABA 2021s went 7-0, that included a dramatic 11-10 semifinal win, to capture the Continental Amateur Baseball Association (CABA) Wood Bat World Series in Cheyenne, Wyo., last Sunday. With the tourney title, ABA advances to the American Amateur Baseball Congress Connie Mack World Series starting Friday at Ricketts Park in Farmington.
It’s the first time a New Mexico team has earned a berth into the Connie Mack World Series, Foote said. Farmington, as the host, always has a team in the tournament.
“I’ve been at this for 18 years trying to get there,” Foote said. “There’s a long list of guys before I got involved that we’ve all been trying to get that elusive berth to Farmington.”
In 2012, an ABA team that featured 2021 major leaguers Alex Bregman (Houston) and Sam Haggerty (Seattle) was one win from reaching the Connie Mack World Series, Foote said.
“I’m happy for these kids,” Foote said. “On the roster we had 18 kids in Cheyenne representing 11 New Mexico high schools. None of them are Division I commits. They’re all going to JUCO or small-division or NAIA schools. No high-profile names. Just guys who love to play and grind it out, and that’s what they did.”
The team includes three recent Rio Rancho graduates: Shortstop Garrett Rede (headed to Arizona Western) from Rio Rancho High School, and Cleveland High’s Dayne Pengelly (Embry Riddle), a pitcher/first baseman, and catcher Alex Admire (New Mexico Junior College).
In the Wood Bat World Series semifinals, the ABA 2021s trailed Grand Junction, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Oysters 10-3 entering the bottom of the sixth inning of a seven-inning game when ABA was up to bat. The ABA 2021s rallied with four runs in the sixth and another four runs in the final inning.
Josh Salas, a St. Pius X graduate, delivered the walk-off RBI single that brought in Admire.
In the title game against Post Six of Cheyenne, ABA pitchers Matthew Cornelius (St. Pius), Matt Romero (Sandia) and Pengelly combined on a 4-0 shutout.
The first two days of the Connie Mack World Series are pool play for seeding in an elimination bracket. All games will be televised by ProView Network.