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ABQ-based team lands historic Connie Mack berth

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, Wyoming on Sunday. With the tourney title, ABA advances to the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC) Connie Mack World Series that starts July 23 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, has a team in the tournament annually.

According to the Connie Mack World Series website, the event in Farmington is in its fifth decade.

“I’ve been at this for 18 years trying to get there,” Foote said on Tuesday. “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.”

They are the 2021s because the majority of them graduated from high school this year with the exception being Eldorado’s Shane Frye, who moved to Albuquerque last year from Chadron, Nebraska.

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. Foote was not in Wyoming, as the team was coached by Tim Campos. Foote admitted that he stopped following the game before the final two innings because he thought the ABA team would lose.

But the ABA 2021s rallied with four runs in the sixth and another four runs in the final inning. Josh Salas, a St. Pius graduate, delivered the walk-off RBI single that brought in Alex Admire of Cleveland.

“Weeks earlier I was in the state championship with my high school and we lost on a walk-off to Albuquerque Academy,” Salas said. “I know how it feels to lose like that. Now I was on the winning side of a walk-off. It just felt amazing. I was really happy.”

Salas said it also felt good to give Campos the win and the berth into the Connie Mack World Series. Campos helped Salas find a home for college baseball, at Doane University, an NAIA school in Crete, Nebraska.

Salas, a middle infielder, believed the ABA 2021s could rally for the win against the Oysters.

“The whole week, our bats had been hot,’ Salas said. “They were a little bit cold that day, but we were able to figure it out in those last few innings. As a team we knew that if we just kept on fighting one way or another we would win the ballgame. We were never down on ourselves. We always thought we could pull it off and we did it.

In the title game against Post Six of Cheyenne, ABA pitchers Matthew Cornelius (St. Pius), Matt Romero (Sandia) and Dayne Pengelly (Cleveland) combined for a 4-0 shutout.

The first two days of the Connie Mack World Series are pool play for seeding in an elimination bracket, Foote said. All games will be televised by ProView Network.

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