In a pickle: Miners too slow cracking Hibell's riddle

BROOKVILLE — When the Rossiter Miners and the Brookville Grays met in Federation League action May 31, Brookville starter Craig Hibell allowed four runs and was charged with a loss in Rossiter's 4-1 victory. Thurs- day evening in Brookville, Hibell earned his revenge, holding the Miners scoreless through five and earning the win with help from closer Ryan Barrett, as the Grays eked out a 3-2 victory over Rossiter.

After the game, Rossiter head coach Jim Dunlap said he knew from the beginning what the team's problem was: They came out flat.

"That's really all there is to it," he said. "We came out flat, and when you come out like that against a good team like Brookville, you're going to struggle."

While Brookville managed a few quick runs against Rossiter starter Christian Muth, he settled in after the third inning, holding the Grays hitless and allowing just one baserunner.

"Christian did a great job in his first game out to shut them down," Dunlap said. "We just need to make up our minds when we get here whether we want to play to win.

Rossiter's greatest threat over the first five innings came in the top half of the first, when two hitters reached base.

No. 2 hitter Jordan Mesoraco singled up the gut with one out, and after a Hibell strikeout, Tyler Skerkavich walked. But with No. 5 hitter Dakota Bish at the plate, Mesoraco was caught trying to move up to third on a wild pitch, and the threat ended with zeroes still stuck on the scoreboard.

Brookville worked up a threat of its own in the home half of the first with the help of a pair of defensive miscues by the Miners.

Leafoff hitter Rick Shaffer started the game off with a sharp grounder under the glove of Rossiter third baseman Dylan Kachmar.

After Shaffer advanced to second on a groundout to shortstop — on what could have been a double play ball had it not been bobbled — he stole third on a throw that short-hopped Kachmar at third.

A pair of back-to-back walks by cleanup hitter Kent Shick and No. 5 hitter Danny Walters loaded the bases, but Muth worked his team out of the jam by striking out the designated hitter — Dan Buzzard — to end the frame and keep the game scoreless.

Still at the plate after his at-bat was interrupted in the first, Bish singled to begin the second, but a soft grounder to second by Austin Furman set up a double play, and Hibell struck out Brodie Lowmaster to end the inning.

Muth's first-inning magic ran out in the second, as the Grays cracked the scoreboard for the first time with a pair.

Kerry Lindemuth led off the inning with a single back up the middle, and after a pair of pop outs — one to second base and one to third — Brookville put up two two-out runs.

Shaffer drove a pitch to right-center field, but a nice throw and cutoff forced Lindemuth to stop at third on the double. Mike Sedor came up next, though, and while he was at the dish a wild pitch by Muth allowed Lindemuth to score. Then, Sedor singled home Shaffer with a sharp grounder past third base.

Cook Cole popped out to end the inning, but the damage was done and the Miners trailed 2-0.

The Miners brought four hitters to the plate in the third, with the only baserunner being leadoff hitter Jacob Stumpf, who reached on a scary hit by pitch when the ball caught him in the back of the helmet as he tried to duck out of the way. Stumpf was OK, though, and after moving to second on a wild pitch, he was stranded when Hibell struck out Mesoraco looking after Mesoraco wasn't granted a timeout when he asked for it.

Brookville earned its final run of the game in the home half of the third, and it came at the hands of a leadoff walk by Shick.

Shick walked to start the frame and was sacrificed to second by Walters before Buzzard delivered an RBI single to drive in what would ultimately prove to be the game-winning run.

Muth forced a pop out by Nick Bishop to end the inning, and from that point forward, he allowed just two — a walk to Shaffer in the fourth and a single by Cole in the fifth. But it was too little, too late, as the Miners were handled easily by Hibell in both the fourth and fifth innings. Tyler Skerkavich was the only Miner to reach base over the two-inning span, drawing a one-out walk in the fourth — his second of the game.

Muth benefitted from a pair of solid defensive, special team-esque plays to end each of those two innings, with a 1-3-6-1 pickoff move ending the fourth and a caught stealing on a laser throw by Bish ending the fifth.

Coming off the field after the caught stealing ended the home half of the fifth, the Miners seemed to have a little more pep in their step, and that pep propelled them to a pair of runs to cut the Grays' lead to one.

"Our defense will pick us up when we're down," Dunlap said. "We turn a double play; we pick a guy off. We're capable of those things. But it just took us a little while to get our momentum this time. At the very beginning, we were just too flat."

Mesoraco started it with a one-out single between Hibell's legs, and Pete Meterko followed Mesoraco's single with one of his own — a rocket to right field that ended up chasing Hibell, whose pitch count had reached the 90s by that point. Hibell was replaced by closer Barrett.

"I thought Hibell pitched well for us," Brookville manager Bob McCullough said after the game. "He got up to 95 pitches, though, and that's a lot. So, we got him out of there. Barrett was ready, and we allowed a couple runs, but we got out of it when we needed to."

When Barrett entered the game, though, he struggled a bit with his control, throwing an early wild pitch that allowed Mesoraco and Meterko to move up to second and third.

Skerkavich was at the plate, and he put the ball in play on a chopper to shortstop Walters, who made a nice play to field it cleanly but then threw the ball past the first baseman, allowing Mesoraco to score and breaking the shutout.

Bish drove in the Miners' second run on a sacrifice fly to deep left field — one that heard shouts of "Get out of here, ball" from the stands and dugout as well as it was hit. The ball stayed in the park, though, and Meterko trotted home for what would be Rossiter's final run. Furman was intentionally walked, and Barrett managed to strike out Lowmaster to end the rally.

Muth made quick work of the Grays in the home half of the sixth, setting them down in order. But a two-out single by Stumpf was all the offense the Miners could muster in the seventh, and the Grays handed Rossiter just its second loss of the season.

After the game, McCullough had positive things to say about his opposing coach and his team.

"I've known Jim Dunlap for a long time, and he always has a very good team," McCullough said. "He's a competitor, and he always seems to have the guys on his team that are the type we want to have in this league. I have a feeling we'll have lots more good games against those guys in the future."

Dunlap wasn't too discouraged by the loss afterwards, as he saw his team battle back and almost tie it up. Putting the loss behind him, he was already looking ahead to this Sunday's contest against the Sykesville Senators in Rossiter.

"We'll be ready for Sunday," he said. "We'll see if we can't get back on the winning track."