BROOKVILLE — The follow-up season to the Brookville Raiders baseball team’s trip to the PIAA Class AA semifinals hasn’t been an easy one.
A combination of mostly poor performance and bad breaks saw the Raiders stumble out to a 3-7 start to the rain-marred season, but they’ve won three out of their last four games and they’re now 6-8 going after Friday’s come-from-behind 6-5 win over Brockway on Senior Night at McKinley Field.
To note: The Raiders were 8-11 before closing the season 6-1, their last loss coming to Bishop McCort one win away from the state finals.
“We have to win as many as possible,” Raiders head coach Bruce Ferry, whose team visits Brockway Monday to start a four-game week to close the regular season. “We have to prove to our athletic director that we’re worthy of participating in the playoffs and up to this point, I’m not sure we have. We’ve won some big games and played well in stretches and played poorly in stretches. We’re playing a lot better right now and have some big games coming up. We’re on a high note and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Friday, the Raiders trailed the Rovers 5-2 going into the bottom of the sixth inning before scoring four runs. Rovers senior right-hander Cam Baker had the Raiders off-balance, scattering six hits with seven popouts and no groundball outs.
Along with that, the Raiders ran into two outs on the bases — two caught stealing attempts — and a third appeared the squelch any type of rally in the sixth.
But the Raiders endured the miscues as Baker ran out of pitches after walking Trenton Gilhousen and hitting Tyler Park for the second time in the game on his 100th pitch.
The Rovers then scrambled with their bullpen as Angelo Inzana walked Chase Palmer to load the bases. Brockway head coach lifted Inzana for Marcus Copelli, who got leadoff hitter Brady Caylor to lift a fly ball to medium right field where Zane Puhala threw out Gilhousen at the plate for a huge double play.
However, the Raiders continued to rally. Seth Dunkle doubled in a run. Copelli balked in Tyler Park. Then Copelli hit Aaron Park to put two runners on for Tanner Labenne, who lined a shot into right-center for looked to be a bases-clearing double.
However, Copelli balked on the play, killing Labenne’s result — high school rules say that balks result in an automatic dead ball. That’s not the case in Major League or even American Legion rules — and Park and Dunkle were pushed up to second and third.
No matter. Labenne lined another pitch into right-center, not as far, but enough to drive in what would be the winning runs.
Dunkle retired 11 of the final 13 batters he faced — 3 2/3 innings of hitless relief with two walks and two strikeouts — after relieving Raiders starter Dane Lyle with one out in the Rovers’ four-run fourth inning to get the win.
Meanwhile, the Rovers fell to 6-8 going into Saturday’s home game with Smethport, weather-permitting.
Baker deserved a better fate, but the Rovers managed just three hits, two of them coming in the fourth which also had four walks from Lyle and Dunkle. Matt Holt had the only run-scoring hit in the inning.
“When we did get guys on base, we didn’t come up with that clutch hit when we needed it,” Moore said. “I can’t fault the guys too much tonight. They played a good baseball game. They just came up short. It was just one of those nights. We’ll get another chance on Monday.”
Brockway bounced right back Saturday morning to scored a 9-1 home win against Smethport.
After surrendering an unearned run in the top of the first, the Rovers responded with five runs in the home half of the first inning to take a commanding 5-1 lead.
Brockway starting pitcher shut down the Hubbers’ offense from start to finish, allowing just the one unearned run in the top of the first, pitching a complete game, allowing five hits and striking out eight over seven innings.
At the plate, Dominic Inzana led the way for the Rovers with a 3-for-3 performance with one walk and a run scored.
Nickelas Porrin drove in three runs with a 1-for-2 performance at the plate.
Santino Inzana and Matthew Clark led Brockway with a pair of runs batted in apiece, as Santino Inzana went 2-for-4 at the plate and Clark finished the game 2-for-3.
Conner Ford and Zane Puhala each scored a pair of runs in the win.