ROSSITER — With the standings tight at the top of the Federation League and three teams vying for the two coveted first-round byes, the Rossiter Miners did their part Thursday night to come one step closer to the time off with a 16-4, five-inning victory over NAPA Auto Parts of DuBois — pulling them within 0.5 games of first place.
Rossiter saw another strong pitching outing from Dylan Kachmar, who threw four shutout innings before he seemed to tighten up during a long inning at the plate for the Miners in the fourth. Pete Meterko came on in relief to pitch the fifth, and after NAPA cut back into the lead, the Miners finished them off in the bottom of the fifth with a pair of runs.
"What else can you say but Kachmar pitched a great game," Rossiter manager Jim Dunlap said after the game. "He just sat too long during those long innings and got tired. So, we went to Pete, because we had Braeden Pennington, but he pitches in AAABA, so we figured we'd keep him fresh and save him for the playoffs."
The first two innings were pretty uneventful for both teams, with zeroes across the board through two. But the Miners made up for their early-game struggles at the plate by batting around in both the third and fourth innings.
NAPA managed the game's first baserunner in the second on a two-out single by Kevin London, and London moved up to second on a passed ball. But Kachmar struck out Jason Jacobson to leave London stranded at second.
In the third inning, Jordan LaBue gave the visiting squad its second hit with a two-out single of his own, but Kachmar struck out Mark Guthridge to end the inning and keep NAPA off the board.
In the home half of the third, the bottom of Rossiter's lineup sparked a rally, and the Miners went on to score six runs on four hits and four walks to open up a commanding lead.
No. 7 hitter Austin Furman got things rolling with a four-pitch walk, and Jordan Mesoraco followed with a second straight walk off NAPA starter Dale Hudson.
Christian Muth followed it up with a seeing-eye single down the left field line to load the bases, and Jacob Stumpf — Rossiter's leadoff hitter — started the scoring with a two-run single right up the gut.
Muth moved up to third on a passed ball to set up a double steal, and when Braden Bish threw down to try to retire Stumpf, Muth trotted home. Making a bad situation worse for NAPA, Bish's throw sailed into center field, and Stumpf never quit running until he had scored Rossiter's fourth run of the inning.
Starting over with the slate clean an no outs, Kyle Neal took a walk to set up a two-run dinger by No. 3 hitter Pete Meterko — hitting right handed against the lefty starter — over the fence in left field and into the high grass.
With Meterko's long ball, the Miners' lead was pushed to six, and despite a walk issued to Rick Bishop and a two-out single by Furman, NAPA reliever Houston Fairman came on to retire the side and keep the lead right where it was.
Kachmar issued a leadoff walk to Fairman to start the top of the fourth inning, but made quick work of the next three NAPA hitters on a fly out to center, a strikeout and a 5-3 putout.
After bringing 11 hitters to the dish in the home half of the third, the Miners dug even deeper in the fourth, scoring eight runs on seven hits and three walks and bringing 14 men to the plate.
It all started with a Muth single, and the next three Rossiter hitters — Stumpf, Neal and Meterko — followed suit with singles of their own.
Stumpf's single was a pop down the left field line that the NAPA fielder's couldn't track down, and Neal's was an attempted sacrifice bunt that turned into a base hit. Meterko's single was another of the seeing-eye variety, falling between four NAPA defenders and giving him his third RBI of the night.
"It was good to see the balls start falling where they weren't," Dunlap said. "We've been hitting the ball hard, but right at people lately. And it was nice to be on the other side of that."
Tyler Skerkavich took a bases-loaded, RBI walk for another RBI, plating Stumpf, and Pennington hit another sky-high single that fell into the grass in left.
Bishop became the fourth straight Rosstier hitter to drive in a run with an RBI walk, and without retiring a hitter in the fourth, Fairman was chased for reliever Jacobson.
Taylor Neal — who had entered the game for Furman — grounded into a fielder's choice, with Skerkavich being retired at home, but Bish's throw to first in an attempt to turn two sailed into right field allowing Pennington to cross home plate safely.
Mesoraco — the ninth hitter to come to bat for Rossiter in the inning — reached with the help of a bobble by the third baseman, and Billy Fegley delivered with a pinch-hit single down the right field line to load the bases and keep things rolling.
"Everybody got to play tonight, and that was good," Dunlap said. "Billy came through for us with a big hit coming off the bench, and I was really glad to see that. He shows up every game and plays his hardest. I was happy for him."
Stumpf grounded into a fielder's choice on the next play, allowing Neal to score Rossiter's eighth and final run of the inning.
Ahead by 14, Rossiter simply needed to hold NAPA to two runs or fewer to earn a mercy-rule victory, but unfortunately, Kachmar seemed to tighten up during the long layoff and struggled to find the handle in the fifth.
He walked the first three NAPA hitters he faced — Jacobson, Duane Hinderlilter and Terry Noble — to load the bases, and Dunlap turned to his reliable reliever, Meterko.
NAPA managed three straight hits off Meterko, though, to plate a total of five runs.
LaBue started things with an RBI single, and Guthridge followed with another RBI single. But Stumpf's throw from center field to third base skipped out of play into the Miners' dugout, allowing two more runs to score and temporarily pulling the visitors back within the mercy-rule limit.
Rossiter wasted no time in the bottom of the fifth re-opening the lead it needed, though, as Pennington sparked the two-run inning with an inside the park home run when Hinderliter injured himself chasing down the deep fly.
Bishop followed suit with a double to the fence in left, and after a pair of 6-3 putouts — one off the bat of Taylor Neal and the other off Mesoraco's bat — Bishop advanced 90 feet on each one to score the game-ending run.
After the game, Dunlap pointed out that some of NAPA's fielding woes came because of a short staff.
"They didn't have their full complement of players tonight, so it was rough on them," he said. "But we played well, goofed around a little bit and stayed loose. Now, we look forward to Sykesville Sunday. That'll be a tough one. And after that, we have Brookville Monday, Bigler Tuesday and DuBois Thursday. It'll be quite a push to the end, but I believe we're ready."