ST. MARYS — In a game that was dominated by hitting in the early going, pitching took over in the late innings as Brookville held on for an 8-7 victory on the road over St. Marys at Berwind Park Wednesday.
With the potential tying run on second and game-winning runner on second in the bottom of the seventh, Raiders reliever Seth Dunkle got Connor Bressler to hit a deep fly out down the left-field line to secure the win.
Dunkle and Bressler each had strong performances in relief to give their teams a chance to win the game down the stretch, as both pitchers went 3 2/3 innings on the mound.
Dunkle came in to relieve Brookville (3-3) starter Dane Lyle with one-out and two runners on in the bottom of the fourth and retired the next two batters on a fly out and a strikeout to preserve a 7-6 lead for the Raiders at the time.
The reliever continued to shut down St. Marys (2-3) over the final three innings, as he finished with one hit allowed and one unearned run while walking two and striking out one to help Brookville secure the win.
“Hats off to Dane (Lyle) this was his first start and first appearance of the year and he was lights out for the longest time,” Brookville head coach Nathan Bonfardine said. “I’m just happy with our overall performance and we’ve been tearing the cover off the baseball lately.”
On the other side, Bressler did all he could to give the Dutch a chance to win after coming in to pitch in relief of Matt Bellina, as he surrendered just one run on two hits while waking two and striking out a pair over the final 3 1/3 innings.
“This is giving our younger guys an opportunity, I thought Connor came in, as a sophomore and held his own and he did really really well,” St. Marys head coach AJ Meeker said.
While both relievers controlled the game down the stretch, the early innings had a much different feel, as it didn’t take long for either team’s bats to heat up on the chilly afternoon.
Dunkle led things off in the top of the first for Brookville with a single to right-center, before eventually reaching third on a steal and a wild pitch.
Looking to score the game’s first run, Dunkle was caught too far off third by St. Marys catcher Jake Meeker, who fired to Shane Price at third for the out.
Jace Miner drew a walk in the inning and was able to give the Raiders the early lead after coming in to score on an error.
The Dutch battled back in the bottom half of the inning, as Brandon Sicheri got things started with a single before stealing second and moving over to third on a single by Meeker.
Nate Beimel followed with a sacrifice fly to center to bring home Sicheri to tie the game at one after the first inning.
In the top of the second, Chase Palmer and Lyle both reached on one-out singles to left, but Bellina forced the following batter to fly out to left as he looked to escape the jam and keep the game tied.
Instead, the Raiders used some two-out magic to retake the lead, as Dunkle got things started with a single to left to bring home Palmer for the go-ahead run.
Miner followed with a single up the middle to load the bases, before Aaron Park cleared them with a double to deep left-center field to score Adam Mackins, who courtesy ran for Lyle, as well as Dunkle and Miner to give Brookville a 5-1 lead heading into the bottom of the second.
“Just having situational hitting and being able to put the ball in play with two outs and making them earn the out,” Bonfardine said. “Good things happen whenever you put the ball in play.”
The Dutch got a run back in the bottom half as Bellina led off with a single and later scored on a groundout to short by Bressler.
After Bellina held the Raiders off the board in the top of the third, St. Marys got back to work in the home half of the inning, scoring two more runs to trim the deficit to one.
Meeker and Beimel got the inning started by drawing back-to-back walks, as Meeker came in to score on a one-out single to left-center by Garret Bauer.
Kael Azzato would later deliver a two-out single to left to bring home Beimel and bring the score to 5-4 after three innings of play.
Brookville responded right away with a pair of runs to push its lead back to three, as Miner led off with a double to left-center and scored when Park followed with a double to right field.
The back-to-back doubles came on the heels of a diving catch by Sicheri in center field off the bat of Dunkle, as the center fielder had a handful of web gems for the Dutch.
“Having the ambition to go up each and every pitch and saying ‘this could be my pitch to hit’ and I think that has helped out in the long run,” Bonfardine said. Hats off to (Sicheri) out in center field, he was tracking the ball like no other today and covered a lot of ground and he’s a heck of a ball player.”
Hunter Roney then hit a single back up the middle to give the Raiders runners on the corners with one away.
Brookville then executed a double steal, as Roney broke for second, where he was thrown out by Meeker, but Park took off for home as soon as the catcher made the throw and was able to score to push the lead to 7-4.
The back-and-forth action continued in the bottom half, as another two-run inning by the Dutch brought them back within a run once again.
Sicheri and Meeker both drew one-out walks in the home half of the fourth, as Sicheri later scored on an error and Meeker came home on a single to left by Price.
The Raiders then turned to Dunkle on the mound, who retired the next two batters to leave as pair stranded and helped Brookville maintain its lead until the final out.
Dunkle also helped himself out in the fifth, singling down the line in left field to score Palmer, who had reached on a walk earlier in the inning, for another two-out RBI for Brookville.
The Dutchmen’s lone run in the final three innings came in the sixth, when Sicheri led off with a walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and reached third on an error on an attempted pick off by Dunkle.
Beimel then delivered his second sacrifice fly of the game to drive in the run and trim the deficit back to one run at 8-7.
Dunkle looked to make quick work of the Dutch in the bottom of the seventh, as he forced the first hitter to ground out to short.
Bellina then hit a sharp grounder to Tanner LaBenne, who fielded the grounder and looked to flip to Dunkle at first, but the ball popped out of the pitcher’s glove allowing Bellina to reach safely
After forcing the next batter to fly out to second, Greg Tettis reached on a walk, as both runners would then advance on a wild pitch, putting the tying run on third and the winning run on second.
Dunkle then won the battle between the two relief pitchers, forcing Bressler to hit a deep fly out down the line in left to secure the road win for the Raiders.
“Overall I was very pleased, the season will keep progressing and we’ll keep getting better, this is all built for May,” Meeker said.
Both teams are back in action today, as Brookville hosts DuBois Central Catholic and St. Marys welcomes Elk County Catholic.