No team has had more asked of them in the 2017 NBC World Series than the Cheney Diamond Dawgs. No team has delivered more.
The Diamond Dawgs locked up a spot in the NBC quarterfinals after finishing pool play Thursday with a 3-2 walk-off win over the San Antonio Angels (0-3). Cheney will enter the quarterfinals undefeated with a tournament-leading seven wins.
The Diamond Dawgs have played more than twice as many tournament games as any other team in the championship week field with the exception of the Mulvane Patriots because neither team earned an automatic bid this summer. The two teams moved to the Sunflower Collegiate League this year, which doesn’t get an automatic bid to the NBC World Series championship week. So the Patriots and Diamond Dawgs, who finished first and second respectively in the league’s inaugural season, had to earn their way in with an extra week of play.
Sixteen teams spent last week competing for two open spots in the NBC World Series’ championship week and the right to take the field among 14 automatic qualifiers. The Diamond Dawgs swept their 3-game pool play schedule, then won the semifinal round to advance to championship week, where they once again swept pool play with three more wins.
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The result is a Cheney team with an NBC World Series-leading 7 wins and no losses. They had to play their way into the field; now they’re looking to sweep it.
“We definitely feel like we belong,” catcher Andrew Miller said. “We’re undefeated here. We didn’t lose the first week, and we haven’t lost yet. We earned our way here.”
Miller’s bat is one of the reasons for the winning streak. The Greyson Junior College product went 3 for 4 with an RBI and scored the game-winning run Thursday. He’s played in all seven games and has a hit in six of them.
Though the Diamond Dawgs have played 7 games in 12 days Miller said he’s not tired.
“I feel like it’s a little bit of advantage,” he said. “We know the field and how it plays. We haven’t lost yet, and we’re keeping it going. Everyone else was sitting around for a week while we’re staying loose.”
Miller was out of breath immediately after the team’s seventh win. After his leadoff single in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game, a sacrifice bunt attempt from Scott Hastings drew an errant throw that flew into foul territory in right field. Miller raced around the bags to score from first for a walk-off win.
“Coming in we already knew that we were going on, but the Dawgs – we hate losing,” he said. “There’s not a game that we don’t want to come out and beat someone’s throats in. We just want to win.”
It’ll take three more wins for the Diamond Dawgs to claim an NBC World Series championship, and they’ll have to come in three consecutive days. The quarterfinals start Friday with the semifinals Saturday night and the championship game on Sunday night. Manager Pat Hon brought 14 pitchers with him to the tournament and only used one pitcher for more than two innings on Thursday, meaning his pitching staff is ready to go for the weekend.
Jose Vasquez made his first appearance of the tournament in early relief Thursday. He entered the game trailing 2-1 in the third and threw six shutout innings.
“We should have pretty much everybody available,” he said. “It’s almost like starting day one, because we only burned one guy today and it was nice for him to come in and eat some innings. So I think we are in good shape.”
The Diamond Dawgs will face either the Mulvane Patriots or Wellington Heat in Friday’s quarterfinals. A win would advance them to Saturday’s semifinals with a potential matchup against the Kansas Stars, a team made up of former Major League Baseball players, including Chipper Jones.
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NBC World Series
Four quarterfinals beginning at 1 p.m.
- Santa Barbara Foresters vs. Everett Merchants, 1 p.m.
- San Diego Waves vs. Pool B runner-up, 3:30 p.m.
- Kansas Stars vs. Derby Twins, 7 p.m.
- Cheney Diamond Dawgs vs. Pool D runner-up, 9:30 p.m.