REYNOLDSVILLE — In a game that ended up taking approximately 49 hours from first pitch to final out after play was suspended in the second inning Thursday evening due to a torrential downpour, the Brookville Grays earned a 5-3, nine-inning victory over the Sykesville Senators Sunday evening in Reynoldsville to even the Federation League finals at one game apiece.
After falling 14-1 in the series' opening game, Brookville found a way to cool the hot Sens' bats, and with some solid pitching and a timely two-run home run by Eric Painter in the top of the ninth, the Grays earned the win.
"I think we played a lot better tonight," Brookville manager Bob McCullough said after the game. "I can't take anything away from Sykesville. They played very hard, and they're a very tough team to beat."
Sunday's action started in the top of the second inning with the count 2-0 on pinch hitter Mike Sedor, who had entered the game in place of No. 9 hitter Korry Lindemuth for Brookville, and the score 2-1 in favor of the Grays.
Brookville threatened in the frame, putting two on after Sedor flew out to left with Rick Shaffer walking and Danny Walters singling to left.
No. 3 hitter Cole Cook grounded into a fielder's choice, forcing Walters out at second, and with two outs, Brookville attempted to execute a double steal to add an insurance run. Cook broke for second and paused, and as he was caught in a rundown, Sykesville pitcher Dan Wascovich chased him back to the bag. Shaffer broke for home, but Sykesville dealt it home in time to retire him and the side.
Tom Hibbert led off the bottom of the second for Sykesville with a single off the first baseman's glove, and Jesse Cogan played some small ball to move him up with a sac bunt. Hibbert moved to third on a groundout by Jordan Weinzeral, but Brookville reliever Glenn Stewart, in for Thursday's starter Brandon Bell, got out of the jam by striking out designated hitter Jude Lander.
The Grays managed two more baserunners in the third after Wascovich put the first two hitters down in order on a 5-3 groundout by Kent Shick and a deep fly to left by Painter. Joe Culler, the designated hitter, reached on a single back up the middle, and Dan Buzzard walked to put the pair on. A flyout to left off the bat of Jed Fiscus ended the threat, though, and Brookville's lead was still 2-1.
The Senators rode the momentum of the defensive stop into the dugout and came out firing in the third, notching one run to even the score at two.Leadoff hitter Ryan Gordon got things going with a single between the shortstop and the third baseman, and a walk to Jason Roman put a pair on for Sykesville.
No. 3 hitter Adam Fox grounded into a fielder's choice, which retired Gordon, the lead runner, en route to third base, and cleanup hitter Kasey Clinton popped one up for an infield fly rule and the second out of the frame.
Sykesville used a bit of two-out magic, though, to score one on an RBI single to center off the bat of Jonathan Weber.
Hibbert walked to load the bases and keep Sykesville in business, but a flyout to left off Cogan's bat ended the inning with the score tied.
The fourth inning went down scoreless for both squads, with Brookville's only baserunner being Sedor, who reached after being hit by a pitch.
He moved to second on a wild pitch with none out, but Shaffer flew to left field for the first out, and Sedor was forced to hold at second.
He moved up 90 feet on a groundout by Walters to first base, but Wascovich pitched out of the jam by forcing a lazy pop up to the second baseman by Cook.
Stewart did his part in the fourth, setting the Senators down in order for the first time with a called third strike retiring Weinzeral, a pop to second putting out Lander and a flyball to left by Gordon ending the inning.
Brookville jumped out to a hot start in the fifth, with singles by Shick and Painter putting a pair on base quickly with no outs. But a pair of fielder's choices — the first on a botched attempt at a sacrifice bunt by Culler and the second on a sawed-off grounder to second by Buzzard — a 4-3 groundout by Fiscus ended the threat without a run crossing the plate.
Stewart made quick work of the first two hitters he faced in the fifth, striking out Roman and Fox with the help of 2-3 putouts on each one. But with two outs, Clinton showed off his impressive bat, driving one to right field for a double. Stewart wasn't phased by the man in scoring position, though, as he forced Weber into a 5-3 groundout with the help of a nice play by shick at third.
Brookville regained the one-run lead with which it had started the game in the top of the sixth with the help of a fielding error by the home team. Sedor grounded one to short, and it took a tough hop on Fox, who allowed it to hop in and out of his glove, and Brookville made the error hurt. Shaffer laid down a sacrifice bunt that went down in the books as a 1-3 putout to move Sedor to second, and Walters came through with a one-out single to center to score Sedor.
Walters was retired trying to stretch the single into more when the ball was cut off, and a 4-3 groundout by Cook ended the frame. But Brookville held the edge, 3-2 after five-and-a-half innings.
Sykesville couldn't muster a baserunner against Stewart in the sixth, and Hibbert, Cogan and Weinzeral went down in order, but the Grays managed just one runner in the top of the seventh on a two-out single by Culler, and the game went to the home half of the seventh with a one-run differential. Frequent Grays closer Ryan Barrett was warming in the pen between innings, but the Grays elected to stick with Stewart to take the hill for what could have been the final inning.
But a quick single to right off Lander's bat and a sacrifice bunt turned error by Gordon put two players on base with nobody out and the tying run just 90 feet from home plate.
With that, Barrett got the nod to come into the game, and after his warmup pitches, Sykesville wasted no time putting its third run on the board and tying things up. Roman drove the first pitch he saw to center field, and the game was tied at three, but after that, Barrett forced a 6-4-3 double play and another grounder to short to get Brookville out of the inning and force extras.
Despite the seventh-inning hiccup causing an unearned run charged to Stewart, McCullough was still pleased with his quasi-starter's pitching.
"I was very pleased with Glenn's outing," he said. "I thought that with Barrett coming in and giving us a few innings, we might have to lean on some other folks tomorrow, but we had to do what we had to do."
And after three batters for each team came up and went down in the eighth inning, Brookville did exactly what it had to in the top of the ninth, putting up a two-spot on Painter's blast.
The shot came with two outs and one runner on — Cook, who had reached on an infield single when his shot to the right side left two players chasing the ball and nobody covering the bag, and he advanced to second on an errant toss to first.
Painter — whose scruffy beard made him hard to miss — showed no signs of buckling under the two-out pressure, though, as he drove one high and deep over the left-field fence to put his squad up by two. McCullough said he's liked what he's seen since Painter returned from a long layoff, and he even hinted that the beard may be part of the reason he's hitting so well.
"Painter's home run was obviously just great," McCullough said after the game. "He came back after he'd been gone for a month, and in two gamse he's hiting the ball better now than he was in the spring. I'm not sure what he did up there in Alaska, but maybe it's the beard. He didn't have that beard before he left."
Sykesville trailed by two and needed to score at least a pair to stay alive, and it didn't go down without a fight.
Gordon got things rolling with a one-out single to left field, and he moved to second on a groundout to first off Roman's bat.
Fox singled to center to move Gordon up to third, but he held there to prevent a play at the plate. Clinton was intentionally walked for the second time — a risky move as it put the winning run on base. But the reward proved to be worth the risk, as the intentional walk led to a pop out by Weber to end the game and seal the deal for Brookville.
The strategic play on Brookville's part proved to work out, but McCullough said after the game he also knew it could have gone the other way and backfired.
"We made some decisions we weren't sure of, putting some guys on, and at the end there we put the winning run on first base," he said. "But you can't pitch to Fox; you can't pitch to Clinton. They're both tearing the cover off the ball and hitting over .500. I was impressed with their roster from the start, but they're a lot tougher than we thought they'd be. In order to win in this league you have to have good defense and good pitching, and we had that tonight."
Game 3 will take place this evening at 6 p.m. in Brookville, where the Grays hope to return to their winning ways at home.