Brookville-Sykesville prepared to lock horns

BROOKVILLE — The matchup isn't exactly David versus Goliath, but after knocking off the regular season Federation League champion — the DuBois Rockets — the Sykesville Senators, who finished the season 10-10 as the No. 4 seed, are gearing up to take on the regular season's No. 2-seeded Brookville Grays in the Fed League finals.

The Grays finished the season with a 15-5 record — identical to the Rockets' record — but with DuBois being crowned league champion, both teams earned byes into the semi-finals and had to await their opponents.

Sykesville busted out the sticks to open the playoffs with a come-from-behind 11-6 victory over NAPA Auto Parts in Reynoldsville. Then, the Senators had to take to the road, traveling to DuBois to face its opponent on its own field.

The change of venue didn't seem to bother Sykesville, though, as they blanked NAPA 10-0 behind a combined one-hitter by starting pitcher Travis Menteer and reliever Jude Lander to advance to the semis.

On the other side of the bracket, the Rossiter Miners — who had finished the season as the league's No. 3 seed — downed the No. 6 seeded Bigler Buccos in two games to advance, forcing Sykesville to take on the top-seeded Rockets and setting up a semi-final rematch between Rossiter and Brookville.

In the Brookville series, the first two games were exchanged, with each team holding court and winning on its own field — one game at McKinley Field for the Grays and one at Shaffer Field for Rossiter.

After that, though, Brookville went on a three-game winning streak with an offensive outburst in Game 3 giving them an 11-4 victory.

In Game 4, the Grays earned their first win in 10 games at Shaffer Field — a losing streak that dated back to 2010 — with a 5-4 extra-inning victory over the Miners.

Riding the tide of momentum, the Grays finished off the series just last Sunday with a 7-2 victory behind a solid pitching outing by starter Brandon Bell, who earned some revenge for the team's only loss of the playoffs — a pitching duel between himself and Sean Smith in Game 2. With the Game 5 victory, the Grays advanced to the finals.

In the other semi-final matchup, the Senators took advantage of some sluggish DuBois bats and jumped out to a two-game lead in the series with an 8-0 victory on the road and a 12-6 victory back at home at the Reynoldsville American Legion Field.

DuBois rebounded at Showers Field with a 6-5, 11-inning victory behind a complete-game performance by Kevin Gnacinski, going an unheard-of 11 innings to pick up the 'W.'

Sykesville regained its two-game series lead in Game 4 in Reynoldsville, holding off the Rockets for a 7-4 victory, but DuBois answered again in Game 5 behind another complete game — this time by starter Ben McGary.

The Senators finished off the series, though, in Game 6 behind a seven-run fourth inning en route to a 12-7 victory and a berth to the semi-finals.

The tale of the tape in this year's finals comes down to which will win out: Brookville's solid pitching staff or the potent offensive attack of the Senators.

Brookville's team earned run average (ERA) was a stunning 1.43 for the 2012 campaign, and pitching continued to be the Grays' strong point throughout the semi-finals against Rossiter.

Bell was one of three Brookville starters to earn six starting nods so far this season, and his ERA of 1.14 leads the team's starters.

Craig Hibell and Glenn Stewart each earned six starts apiece with ERAs of 2.33 and 1.42, respectively.

Fireballer Ryan Barrett made 12 appearances, pitching just 14.2 innings and often serving as the team's closer. In those 14.2 innings of work, Barrett has compiled a 0.42 ERA, striking out 14 but walking 13.

The Senators' pitching staff is anchored by starters Jason Knarr — who finished the season with a 4.23 ERA — and Menteer, whose 2.53 ERA led the team.

Sykesville's volatile offensive attack is led by two regular players hitting .500 or above and a team average of .343 to lead the Federation League.

Kasey Clinton — league MVP — is setting the pace with a .506 average, and Adam Fox finished the season with a .500 average, going 41-for-82 on the season.

Fox has edged Clinton in the home run category — with his eight just ahead of Clinton's seven — but Clinton's RBI count of 39 sets the pace for the Senators.

Brookville's offense was no slouch this season either, though, with the team putting up a .297 batting average and scoring 175 runs.

Danny Walters was Brookville's highest-ranked regular with a .459 batting average, and leadoff hitter Rick Shaffer wasn't far behind him with a .397 average.

Power has not been a strong point for Brookville throughout the season, with Fox's eight home runs almost doubling Brookville's total of five home runs all season.

Whether Brookville's pitching prowess proves supreme or Sykesville's slugging satisfies its thirst for a Federation League title, or a completely different story line is written, one thing is certain: The Federation League finals will be a fun series for all to watch.

The finals will begin tonight with a 6 p.m. contest in Brookville and continue Thursday with another 6 p.m. contest — this time in Reynoldsville.