BROOKVILLE — Despite a valiant effort in the seventh inning, the Brookville Grays fell to the Sykesville Senators, 8-7, Thursday night, giving them the 3-2 series lead in the Federation League finals. One errant inning cost Brookville Game 5 in an otherwise solid defense effort.
"We let that one get away from us; we dropped balls in the outfield early in the game, then later in the game," said Bob McCullough, Grays manager.
Sykesville was first to bat Thursday night. Ryan Gordon provided the first out with a pop-up. Jason Roman followed with the second out when Nate Simpson threw his first strike -out after a hard fought battle between the two. Adam Fox batted next and stayed true to his consistent nature and belted a double to center field. Simpson didn't take any risks when Kasey Clinton stepped up to the plate. He walked him to put two runners on base. The strategy worked in Brookville's favor that time as the next batter, Jonathon Weber grounded out for out number three.
Mike Sedor was the first batter for the Grays. He wasted no time tallying a hit as he blasted the first one thrown to him to left field. Rick Shaffer grounded out after Sedor but was able to advance him a bag. While Dan Walters was at bat, Sedor moved to third on a wild pitch by starting pitcher Fox. Walters then delivered a sacrifice grounder to give his squad the 1-0 lead. Jed Fiscus approached the plate next, and his body continued to be a ball magnet. He was drilled by a pitch for the third game in a row. After that, Cole Cook took on Fox until the scoreboard showed a full count. Fox then sent him to the dug out with his first "K" of the night.
The Senators were able to get their bats going a little bit in the second. After Tom Hibbert was forced out, Jesse Cogan was walked. Mike Gray then connected on a single to put Cogan in scoring position. Jude Lander then brought Cogan home with his fielder's choice grounder that forced Gray out. Gordon then registered a hit of his own but was left stranded with Lander when Roman struck out.
Brookville struggled in the second inning, as Eric Painter, Kent Shick and Joe Culler all went down in order.
Sykesville got a little hotter in the third inning. Fox opened with a single to center field. Clinton approached the plate next. Simpson decided to take him on this time. Simpson got him to foul into two strikes before Clinton blasted a double a few feet short of a homer, when it bounced off the center field fence. Weber then scored his team's second run when a ball was mishandled at short stop. Hibbert drove in a run too with a sac-fly to center field. Cogan also flew out to center but no one scored. Gray then grounded a ball to second to force Weber out and put Brookville at the plate. Sykesville was up 3-1.
The Grays had a productive third inning. Zac Roller and Sedor started things off with back-to-back hits. Shaffer then scored both and tied the game when Weber mishandled a ball thrown to first. Walters gave up the first out when he grounded to second and couldn't reach first in time. By the time Fiscus went to bat, Shaffer had moved into scoring position after a stolen base and a wild pitch. Fiscus brought him home with his shot to center field. Cook earned the second out when he grounded out as well. Painter then pushed the Grays score one run higher with his with his double to left field that scored pinch-runner Joe Galbraith.
The third out came when Shick was forced out 6-3 to end the inning. Brookville had grabbed the 5-3 lead by inning's end and its looked as if it was going to run away with the game.
But Sykesville came alive in the fourth. Simpson walked Lander to start the inning. McCullough decided to send Joe Culler to the mound at that point.
"Maybe I pulled Simpson too soon, I don't know, it felt like the right thing to do," said McCullough. "In hindsight maybe I shouldn't have."
Simpson pitched three plus innings, throwing two strikeouts, walking two and allowing three runs on five hits.
Culler got the first batter he faced, Gordon, to sail the ball out to center field where it bounced off the glove of Roller. Roman then scored Lander with his crank down the left field line. Culler then smacked Fox with a pitch to load the bases. Big time slugger Clinton stepped up to the bag next. He flew out to center field for a sac-fly, minimizing what could have been a lot more damaging at-bat to Brookville. Weber batted after and smacked another clutch final's shot down the right field line to score another run.
Hibbert scored the fourth run of the inning when he grounded a shot back to Culler that was mishandled, allowing Fox to cross home plate. Cogan followed with a single that scored his team's eight run and fifth of the inning. Gray was the final batter, as he grounded into an incredible 6-4-3 double play to put Brookville back at the plate. Sykesville was on top 8-5.
Brookville was kept off the scoreboard in innings four and five.
Sykesville only registered one more hit Thursday night off the bat of Fox but did not score any more runs.
Brookville closed the gap in the sixth due to an errant play at short stop that enabled Shaffer to score.
After the Senators squad went down in order in the seventh, Brookville had one last shot to recapture the lead.
Shick opened his team's final at bat with a single to center field. He was replaced at the bag by the speedy Galbraith. Culler then struck out for the first out. Pinch-hitter Dan Buzzard was then walked to put two runner on base. After that, Sedor hit a clutch single to score Galbraith, narrowing Sykesville's lead to only one.
Lander stepped in at the hill at that point to close the game.
He struck Shaffer out for the second out. Walters stepped up to the plate next with two outs and two runners in scoring position.
He hit the ball to center field but it had too much air under it and was caught to end the game.
The Senators held on to their 8-7 lead, giving them the 3-2 series lead. Game 6 will be played in Reynoldsville tonight at 6 p.m. Game 7 will be played on Saturday in Brookville at 7 p.m. (if necessary).