BROOKVILLE — Five days prior to Sunday's Game 5 in the Federation League semi-finals, Rossiter chased Brookville's starting pitcher after 3-2/3 innings en route to a 5-2 victory that evened the series. Sunday evening, facing elimination, Rossiter hoped to do the same with the same result, as Bell matched up with Rossiter starter Sean Smith for the second time in the series.
Unfortunately for the Miners, Bell was sharp, allowing just two runs on two hits over six innings, and the Grays dropped Rossiter by a final score of 7-2 to eliminate it from playoff contention and advance to the finals. Although his team came up on the short end in this particular series, Rossiter manager Jim Dunlap still had positive things to say after the game ended.
"In this series, the better team came out on top," he said. "I'll give them credit for that. But I'll be honest with you, I'd take these guys over any of the other guys in this league, and I mean that. I'll go to battle with these guys any day."
While Bell threw the first five innings without allowing a Rossiter hit, a pair of runners reached base over that time, starting with leadoff hitter Jacob Stumpf in the top of the first inning.
Stumpf hit a grounder to the second baseman, Joe Galbraith, who was playing deep in the hole, and the ball skipped in and out of his glove, allowing the speedy Stumpf to reach safely.
Kyle Neal did what he had done so well all year out of the No. 2 spot, laying down a sacrifice bunt that moved Stumpf up to second, and on a deep fly ball to center off the bat of No. 3 hitter Pete Meterko, Stumpf tagged up and moved to third. But he would be stranded 90 feet from home, as Bell got cleanup hitter Braedon Pennington to chop one in front of the plate — a ball Bell fielded and threw on to first for the final out of the inning.
Smith struggled a bit with his control coming out of the gate in the bottom half of the inning, walking leadoff hitter Rick Shaffer and hitting No. 2 hitter Mike Sedor on a pitch a bit too far inside.
No. 3 hitter Cole Cook moved the pair up 90 feet apiece with a sacrifice bunt that made it out to Neal at second, but a nice play on a recovery by third baseman Christian Muth froze both runners in their tracks on a 5-3 putout of Kent Shick.
Jed Fiscus came to the plate with two outs and two in scoring position, but another grounder to Muth, which he threw on to first baseman Tyler Skerkavich, ended the inning with the game still scoreless.
Both pitchers made quick work of their respective opponent in the second inning, with six men coming to the plate and six failing to reach base.
Bell got Rick Bishop swinging on a third strike and then forced a flyout and a groundout by Dakota Bish and Austin Furman, respectively.
And on the other side, Smith settled in and struck out designated hitter Dan Buzzard after falling behind 3-0, then retired Nate Simpson and Galbraith on a pair of fly outs.
The Miners saw their second baserunner via Brookville error in the third when Skerkavich's rope down the first baseline was mishandled by Simpson, and after some small ball by Muth moved Skerkavich to second on a sacrifice bunt, Rossiter followed the same pattern as the first inning by moving Skerkavich to third on a fly ball by Stumpf.
Another inning-ending 1-3 putout off the bat of Neal ended the threat, though, and the game was still scoreless after three-and-a-half.
Brookville's bats came to life in the bottom half of the third, though, breaking the scoreless tie and putting three runs up on four hits.
No. 9 hitter Zac Roller tried to reach on a bunt, but was thrown out by Smith for the first out, but Rick Shaffer got things going with a single back up the chute to Smith's weak side.
Sedor flew out to Pennington in left for the second out of the inning, but Brookville never said, "Quit," scoring all three of its runs with two outs.Cook moved Shaffer up 90 feet with a single to left field, and Shick plated the first run of the evening with a single to left field, and with Pennington's throw coming home out of Bish's reach, Cook and Shick both ended up in scoring position.
Fiscus added two runs to the Grays' lead with a double to left that short-hopped the fence before Smith got out of the inning on an F4 pop up off Buzzard's bat.
The Miners went down in order in the fourth, and Brookville didn't do much better, bringing just four hitters to the dish and stranding Galbraith, who reached on a single just out of Meterko's reach into left field.
Rossiter huddled prior to the fifth inning, but couldn't roll with any of the momentum it had gained, as Bell set the side down in order on a strikeout and a pair of 6-3s.
In the fifth inning, Brookville doubled its lead, pushing it to 6-0, with the help of two calls that Dunlap thought were a bit suspect. In fact, after the second call cost the Miners another run, Dunlap even went out and had words with the umpire — something he said he rarely does over a call.
"I don't usually complain about the umpires, or to the umpires, but you saw it today, and there were just some bad calls. Maybe that didn't make a change in the game, but I had to go out and have a talk with him."
The first call came on a bang-bang play at first base when Sedor led off with a hit that Meterko fielded deep in the hole. Meterko threw on to first, and when Skerkavich received the throw stretched out, the umpire paused before calling Sedor safe, inciting a bit of a reaction from the Rossiter bench and the Miners' fans. Cook followed with a single of his own, moving Sedor to third, and a cue shot off the end of Shick's bat brought Sedor home, as it went down a 4-3 grounder.
Cook had advanced to second on Shick's groundout, and after Fiscus flew out to right, the Grays added two more runs with two outs. Buzzard came through first with an RBI single to left field that plated Cook, and Buzzard moved up to second on the throw home.
The next hitter, Simpson, grounded one to Skerkavich, which he tossed to Smith, who appeared to think he had retired Simpson. But the umpire said he had missed the bag, and in the confusion, Buzzard never stopped running and slid safely into home to put the home team up by six.
Galbraith grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning, but the damage was done, and Brookville's lead was too great to surmount. Rossiter didn't go down without a fight, though, battling back and finally getting to Bell in the sixth.
Stumpf picked up the Miners' first hit of the game, laying down a bunt up the third base line and legging it out for an infield single, but Neal grounded into a fielder's choice to trade places with Stumpf and give Brookville two outs.
Rossiter put together a little two-out magic of its own, though, as Meterko came through with an RBI double directly down the right field line to score Neal, and with two outs, Meterko manufactured another run by moving up on a wild pitch and scoring when the throw down
to third sailed into left field.
Two was all Rossiter would muster against Bell, though, as Pennington went down on strikes to end the inning with the score 6-2.
Brookville added its final insurance run of the evening in the sixth thanks in large part to a leadoff triple to right center off Roller's bat. The triple chased Smith from the game, and reliever Furman took the mound.
Furman got Shaffer behind 0-2, but when he bounced the next pitch in the dirt, it skipped away from Bish and Roller broke for the plate. Furman blocked the plate, but the umpire deemed that Roller's slide pushed him through before the tag was applied, and the Grays led 7-2.
Furman limited the rest of the damage to a Sedor single before setting down Cook and pinch-hitter Tyler Ross, and the Grays called upon closer Ryan Barrett to put a cap on the game and the series.
Barrett wasted no time taking care of business, forcing Bishop into an F3 and striking out pinch-hitters Billy Fegley and Taylor Neal to end the game and put his squad in the finals.
After the final out, the teams shook hands and Dunlap shared a moment with his team, concluding his first season as Rossiter's manager. He reflected on the season afterwards, and admitted he was already looking forward to next year.
"I had a wonderful time this year, and as far as I know, I'll be coming back next season," he said. "We'll see what happens. We'll take the rest of the year off, and we'll be ready to bounce back."