Walks hurt Miners in first loss of young season

ROSSITER — In the first of four regular-season rematches scheduled to take place between the two teams that played for the Federation League championship last season — the Rossiter Miners and the DuBois Rockets — the reigning champ held its own, as the Rockets earned a 5-3 victory Thursday evening in Rossiter to improve to 3-0 on the season.

Rossiter starter Brodie Lowmaster pitched a pretty solid game, scattering 10 hits over his seven innings of work, but in the end, it was control problems that cost Lowmaster the victory.

He walked a total of eight DuBois hitters, including three in the Rockets' two-run second inning.

"We gave up seven walks, and three of their five runs came off those walks," Rossiter manager Jim Dunlap said after the game. "If we don't do that, Brodie pitched a good game, otherwise."

The Rockets did most of their damage early in the game, while on the other side the Miners' bats struggled to get rolling out of the gates.

DuBois drew first blood in the top half of the first, putting a run on the board with two outs.

Lowmaster started with a spark, striking out DuBois' leadoff hitter, Chris Szafran, looking before allowing a single to No. 2 hitter Derek Danver.

Danver advanced to second on a wild pitch, but Lowmaster earned his second backwards K by catching Jon Kemmer looking to come one out away from walking away unscathed.

Cleanup hitter Sean Zimmerman earned his first of three walks with no harm done, but a single by No. 5 hitter Sean Sleigh plated Danver to give DuBois a 1-0 edge.

Pete Meterko had a two-out single in the home half of the first, but he was stranded there, and the Rockets wasted no time adding to their lead, bringing eight hitters to the dish and scoring a pair in the second.

Second baseman Brett Sutika led off the inning with a walk, and after a flyout to right for the first out, Mario Gregorio put a pair on by taking a walk of his own.

The runners moved to second and third on a balk, and back-to-back RBI singles by Szafran and Danver set the lead at three runs.

Lowmaster loaded the bases with a second walk to Zimmerman, but a fly ball to center by Sleigh ended the inning with DuBois stranding three.

Jordan Mesoraco led off the Miners' half of the second with a single to right field, but DuBois starter Kevin Gnacinski recorded outs on the next three at-bats to keep the Miners scoreless through two.

DuBois capitalized on another leadoff walk in the top of the third to push its lead to four runs.

This time, it was designated hitter Dom Kriner leading off the inning by taking a free pass. Kriner moved to second on another Lowmaster walk and advanced to third when Dom Varacallo grounded into a fielder's choice.

With one out, No. 9 hitter Mario Gregorio brought Kriner home with a sacrifice fly to left field.

From that point forward, Lowmaster settled in a bit, blanking the Rockets over the next three frames, while the Miners' sticks started to show a bit of life in the bottom of the fourth.

After he allowed just two hits over the first three innings, Rossiter started to figure Gnacinski out in the fourth with a bit of help from a fielding blunder, and it all happened after Gnacinski retired the first two hitters.

Mesoraco came up with his second hit of the game, a deep double over the heads of the center and right fielders, and the next Miners' player to come to the plate, Dakota Bish, hit a sharp, but playable, grounder to short. Varacallo bobbled the ball, though, and Mesoraco advanced safely to third.

Then, Lowmaster helped his own cause with an RBI single past a diving first baseman to put the Miners on the board.

After keeping the Rockets at bay in the fifth, as well, the Miners added another run, with the top of the lineup producing it.

Leadoff hitter Jacob Stumpf started the mini-rally with a single to left field, and Kyle Neal moved Stumpf to second with a single of his own, catching chalk down the third baseline.

Stumpf tagged up on a deep fly by Meterko and came home on an RBI single to right by Tyler Skerkavich.

Both teams were retired in order in the sixth inning, with Lowmaster starting a sharp 1-6-3 double play to end the top of the inning, and DuBois relief pitcher Kriner setting the Miners down 1-2-3.

After Kriner struck out to lead off the seventh, though, DuBois added another insurance run with the help of another walk.

Matt Zimmerman, who had entered the game in the fifth for Sutika, walked and stole second base.

He advanced to third on a single by Varacallo and scored on a groundout fielder's choice by Gregorio when the Miners tried to turn two and came up just shy.

The Miners never quit battling, though, and they made things interesting right to the last pitch — even managing to put the game-tying run on base in the home half of the seventh.

Dylan Kachmar led the inning off with a walk — the only walk issued by DuBois all evening — and moved to second on another single by Stumpf.

DuBois center fielder Sean Zimmerman came up big for the Rockets when the next batter, Kyle Neal, drove what looked like a single to center field.

Zimmerman played the ball perfectly, though, and snuck his glove underneath it just before it hit the ground for the first out of the inning.

Kriner struck Meterko out on a full-count pitch that barely nicked the bottom corner of the strike zone for the second out.

But Skerkavich came up with a bit more two-out magic, plating Kachmar with his second RBI single of the game — this one a bloop single in front of left fielder Jon Kemmer, who was playing deep with the cleanup hitter in the box.

Unfortunately for the Miners, though, the rally would end there, as Kriner struck out Mesoraco to end the game and earn the save.

Despite the 5-3 defeat — his first loss as the Miners' head coach — Dunlap was pleased with the fact that his team didn't stop fighting and continued to put the bat on the ball throughout the game.

"We hit the ball hard; we just hit them right at somebody," he said. "There's nothing you can do about that. That's a good team — a solid team. I was pleased that we kept their two big hitters down, and we battled."

Dunlap said he knows this season will be a growing process, as he's a first year coach of this particular team and the team has a lot of young players, as well. But he said the squad will keep "scrapping" throughout the season, and he's excited about where it may end up.

"We hit the ball hard and played well today; we scrapped," he said. "I said from the beginning with young guys, we'll have to do that; we'll have to scrap. We'll go to DuBois Sunday to take on NAPA, and we'll scrap. But I'm very happy with these guys and the direction they're headed."

Sunday's game against NAPA is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at the DuBois Central Catholic high school field.