REYNOLDSVILLE — It took seven years, a new-look lineup, but the DuBois Rockets find themselves back on top the mountain as the Federation League champions after pulling out a title-clinching 5-2, 8-inning victory Thursday night against Sykesville in Game 6 of the finals series.
DuBois rode the right arm of Brandon Orsich and got him the win in extra innings by staging a three-run rally against Sykesville veteran Jude Lander in the top of the eighth.
Orisch’s battery-mate, Josh Sorbera, plated the go-ahead run with an one-out sacrifice fly in the eighth before Garrett Brown scored a run with a base hit to right-center. Dan Bowman scored the third run in the inning on a throwing error by Senators catcher Austin Blauser.
Orsich allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the eighth but promptly got Jared Baummer to ground out to second to finish off his complete-game effort and give the Rockets their first Fed League title since 2011. That crown was DuBois’ second straight at the time — both coming against Rossiter.
During DuBois’ title drought, Sykesville won five straight league titles (2012-2016) — two against the Rockets — while Rossiter claimed the crown last year against Brookville.
Orsich allowed two runs, one earned, on three hits while striking out two and walking seven, including three intentional ones to Adam Fox. The complete game was his second of the series, as he also tossed a four-hit shutout in a 4-0 Game 3 victory at Showers Field.
Orsich was named the Finals MVP. On top of his two complete-game victories, he also made a relief appearance in Game 2. Overall, he allowed two runs (one earned) on eight hits in 16 1/3 innings (0.43 ERA) in the championship series.
The righty is no stranger to thriving in pressure games, as he tossed seven strong innings back in May to get the win when Penn State DuBois clinched the Small College World Series national title.
“I was excited through all season, and just getting into the playoff atmosphere in anything in great,” said Orsich. “It’s obvioualy not the national championship game, but it feels great. I can’t be happier for Gaz (manager jeff Gasbarre) and Milt (Mattern) and the guys who have been here for years. I’ve been here for four years now, but winning it for those guys is nice.
“They are no slouch of a team and knew they would come in here and fight. If we thought otherwise, we would have lost in four (games). To have the outing I did tonight was great, but the defense behind me all year has been great. I can’t thank those guys for showing up every game.”
DuBois wasted little time getting Orsich the lead Thursday, pushing two runs across in the top of the first against Senators’ starter Brandon Simbeck.
Thayne Morgan led off the game with a double to right and scored two batters later on a Sean Zimmerman single. After Justin Sleigh flew out, Matt Zimmeman kept the inning going with a two-out single down the left-field line.
Dan Bowman followed with a walk to load the bases before Simbeck hit Josh Sorbera to force home Sean Zimmerman to make it 2-0.
That’s all the Rockets got though, as Garrett Brown flew out to end the inning with the bases loaded.
Stranding proved to be a theme the remainder of the game for DuBois, as Simbeck and reliever Adam Fox and Jude lander did a workmanlike job keeping the Rockets at bay over the next six innings.
DuBois, which stranded 15 runners overall, left 11 on base from the second through seventh innings —including the bases loade in the fourth and seventh innings.
That inability to plate runs allowed Sykesville to hang around despite Orsich’s strong start.
Orsich took a no-hitter into the fifth, although his defense helped get him out of a couple mini-jams early in the game.
Shortstop Clayton Read snagged a line drive and doubled off Fox, who was hit by a pitch, to end the bottom of the first after Jake Felix had walked to put two on.
Read also made a catch in shallow left field on a popup by Felix to end the third after Austin Blauser reached on an error and Fox was intentionally walked for the first time.
Blauser broke up Orisch’s no-hit bid with a leadoff single in the fifth, but the Rocket righty promptly struck out Jared Baummer. Brandon Sicheri then beat out on infield single, with he and courtesy runner Jake Mowery each taking an extra base on a late errant throw by third baseman Zane Morgan.
Fox was then intentionally walked again to load the bases. The move initially paid off again as Felix flew out to center. However, Devon Walker delivered a clutch two-out single to left to plate Mowery. Sicheri also scored when Justin Sleigh misplayed the ball in the outfield to even the score at 2-2.
Fox finished off three innings of scoreless relief in the sixth to keep it a 2-2 game, while Lander struck out Zane Morgan for a scoreless top of the seventh after DuBois loaded the bases with two outs.
Orich pitched around two walks — another intentional one to Fox — in the bottom of the seventh to send the game to extra innings.
A leadoff walk to Sean Zimmerman jump-started things in the eighth. Lander then hit Matt Zimmerman with one out before Bowman singled to load the bases. Bowman had three hits on the day, while Sean Zimmerman had two.
Sorbera followed with a sacrifice fly to center to score Sean Zimmerman with what proved to be the series-winning run. Brown followed with a single to plate Matt Zimmerman.
Brown then made things happen on the bases as he took off for second and drew a throw from Blauser after stopping halfway. The throw skipped away from Fox, allowing Bowman to race home from third to set the eventual final at 5-2.
The Zimmerman brothers (Sean and Matt) were the lone Rockets who played Thursday who also played in the 2011 championship series. Dom Kriner, who started Game 2 on the mound, also played in that 2011 series, while Milt Mattern was an assistant coach both years.
“It feels good,” said Gasbarre. “I wasn’t even in baseball back in 2011. I didn’t come back to the Fed League until 2013, and Sykesville was running wild and in the middle of a pretty good run.
“I took over the team in 2016 and we really weren’t that close to them. We had to arm ourselves and get pitching most importantly. I think last year getting swept out unexpectedly in the first round was a real punch in the gut, and we wanted this one really had.
“We knew they (Senators) weren’t going to lay down for us. They’re battled tested. This is their sixth finals in seven years and are led really well at the top with Fox and Lander running the troops over there. They have great leadership, and you know that will lead to some tough competition.”