The run through the National Baseball Congress World Series ended Wednesday for Juneau's Rob Conway and the Nevada (Mo.) Griffons.
Two misplayed bunts in the bottom of the eighth inning, when the game had been tied 3-3, helped the Lake Erie (Mich.) Monarchs beat the Griffons 7-4. The loss eliminated the Griffons, who finished in a tie for seventh place.
The only remaining Alaska League team in the tournament -- the Kenai Peninsula Oilers -- was idle on Wednesday. The three-time NBC champion Oilers play a losers' bracket game this afternoon against the Hays (Kan.) Larks.
In Wednesday's other two games, the Liberal (Kan.) BeeJays beat the San Francisco Seals 4-2 to become the only remaining unbeaten team in the tourney, and Athletes in Action (Ohio) eliminated the Clarinda (Iowa) A's 6-2 in a losers' bracket game. AIA is discussing the possibility of basing a team in Alaska next season to play in the Alaska League.
Conway, a 1996 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate, played designated hitter and batted cleanup for Nevada, going 1-for-4 with two runs scored and reaching base twice on Lake Erie fielding errors. Conway finished the tournament with a 6-for-20 performance at the plate, with one double, three RBIs and six runs scored.
``The NBC World Series was an awesome tournament, something every ballplayer should experience,'' Conway wrote in an e-mail message after the Griffons were eliminated Wednesday. ``I am glad I had an opportunity to play with and against the best baseball players in the nation.''
Conway, who will be a senior starting third baseman at Iowa State this fall, played this summer for the Carolina Sox of Charlotte, N.C., in the Southeastern Collegiate League and made the SECL's all-star game.
Conway said he hit about .350 for the season with one homer (a grand slam), 10 doubles and three triples in the league which uses wooden bats. Conway, who played for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots of the Alaska League last summer, hit .298 with a team-high 10 home runs, a teamhigh 54 RBIs, 33 runs and 12 doubles for the Cyclones, who use aluminum bats in the college season.
``It was a good league for me to work on some things,'' Conway said of the SECL.
The Sox were getting ready for their league's postseason tournament when he was contacted by the Griffons about playing for them during the NBC World Series, a 48-team, double-elimination national championship tournament for amateur baseball. Conway said he left on good terms with the Sox, with them telling him to go to the NBC tourney because it was a good opportunity.
``It was definitely weird taking the field with guys I only met three days before, some of the guys I didn't even know their names, first or last,'' Conway said about joining the Griffons. ``But I was glad I got to play with the Griffons. They were a great bunch of guys who love to play baseball and have fun doing it.''
Conway's first game for the Griffons came against the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks in a game Nevada won 4-2. (The Goldpanners lost both of their games in the tournament to become the first Alaska League team to ever go 0-2 in the NBC World Series in more than 35 years of Alaska teams attending the tourney).
Conway played against several of the Goldpanners last summer when he was with the Glacier Pilots in the Alaska League (Juneau pitcher Chad Bentz played his second season for the Pilots this summer), but he said this year he didn't know much about Fairbanks other than it was a good squad with a good No. 1 pitcher.
``It was kind of weird facing Fairbanks right off the bat, especially since I was originally planing on playing for the Glacier Pilots (this summer),'' Conway said. ``I never would have thought I would be playing in the Series, and I guess if I did play for the Pilots (who didn't qualify for the NBC tourney) I never would have gotten a chance to experience the NBC World Series. God works in mysterious ways.''
Conway said he enjoyed his experience in Wichita, even if he wasn't playing for an Alaska League team. He said he enjoyed playing for the Griffons, who finished fourth this summer in the Jayhawk League.
``I wouldn't have wanted to wear another uniform at the Series,'' Conway said. ``I was proud to be a Griffon. It is a very good organization in a very good league.''
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