BROOKVILLE — With the way the threatening sky was looking and how Thomas Plummer was firing from the mound at McKinley Field with two outs in the seventh inning, it was hard to figure out what was more inevitable — an annoying rain delay or a Grays sweep of their Federation League finals series against the Pulaski Generals.
But thanks to extreme patience by the umpiring crew in a driving downpour in near darkness, Plummer got Corey Carr to fly out to Chase Palmer in center.
Sweep complete. 3-0 Grays, culminating a worst-to-first playoff run that saw the last-place Grays sweep Rossiter in a best-of-three play-in series, outlast top-seeded DuBois 4-3 in seven games and then culminating the postseason with a four-game sweep of the Generals.
Plummer’s two-hitter with 14 strikeouts and one walk was the third Grays shutout of the series. The Generals couldn’t hit him in good weather and certainly not in the dark and monsoon conditions at the end.
“It feels amazing,” said Plummer, who was 4-0 with a no-decision in the postseason overall. “There are no words that can describe how I’m feeling. I just went out there, focused on throwing strikes and let my defense do the rest.”
And at the end, just throw a strike on a 3-2 pitch to Carr with a runner on first … in the near dark.
“I’ve never been in a pitching situation like that,” said Plummer, a 2015 Clarion High School graduate who also helped Penn State DuBois win two Small College national titles. “I’ve pitched in the snow, light rain, but that was a heavy downpour. I was just trying to get the ball in, get three outs and get out of there. I told Nort (catcher Nathan Bonfardine) fastballs only because I could barely feel the ball.”
And Palmer, a junior-to-be at Brookville this year squeezed the final out in the heavy rain and the Grays celebrated in the mud.
All of it only left 82-year-old manager Bob McCullough smiling afterward as he held the championship trophy. He was a bat boy on the first Grays team back in … 1946.
“I didn’t think we’d get this far, but I knew I had a pretty good team when I could get them on the field at the same time,” said McCullough, who batted at least five or six times during the season. “This was a special occasion getting through three series where we all showed up and played pretty well. We had some great pitching.”
The Grays outscored the Generals, 11-2, in the four games. Down 2-1 in the seventh in Game 1 in DuBois last Thursday, the Grays scored the go-ahead runs on a two-out, two-run single by Joe Lopez.
Lopez then shut out the Generals on a two-hitter last Saturday at McKinley Field, Kane McCall two-hit the Generals Monday in DuBois and then Plummer extended the Generals’ scoreless innings streak to 27 innings.
“We scrapped. Our pitchers threw strikes, didn’t walk many guys and that’s a recipe for success and as far as our bats go, we had guys contribute throughout the lineup,” said Lopez, the finals MVP after going 4-for-13 at the plate with his shutout win, a save in game one and huge defensive anchoring effort at shortstop. “Different days, different guys and it came together as a team and that’s what it takes.”
Tuesday, the Grays scored an unearned run in the first inning when Trenton Corle reached on an infield error, moved to second on a Lopez bunt and came home from second on a wild pitch with Tanner LaBenne at the plate.
Then in the fourth, LaBenne and Dustin Daihl led off with singles and a walk to Bonfardine loaded the bases with no outs. Joe Culler’s sacrifice fly to left scored LaBenne and after Dan Ion reached on an infield single, Palmer’s swinging bunt down the first-base line did the job and pushed home Daihl to make it 3-0.
That was more than enough for the dominating Plummer, who allowed a two-out single to Adam Bankovich in the first inning, a leadoff single to Jake Miknis in the fourth and walked Bankovich to start the seventh. Miknis reached second on Plummer’s errant pickoff throw in the fourth and Bankovich stole second in the seventh, but the Generals never got closer to scoring.
“It was nice to be able to work backwards on the hitters and know their tendencies from playing with and against them through the years and hitting the corners,” Bonfardine said. “It was nice having confidence with the guys on the mound.
“Undoubtedly, Thomas was painting the corners and I tryed to buy him some corners. He threw a heckuva game and it was nice to seal it up.”
Kevin Gnacinski took the loss for the Generals, tossing a four-hitter with two strikeouts and four walks.