ROSSITER — The never-ending Federation League semifinal series between Sykesville finally concluded Monday night, despite the best effort by Mother Nature to push back Game 7 another day.
However, the Miners got Shaffer Field playable, and once play began, the visiting Senators used some thunder off the bats of Adam Fox and Jude Lander and a gutty relief performance by Ryan Walker to come away with an 8-3 victory.
Fox hit a two-run homer just over the fence in left field in the top of the second to put Sykesville up 2-1, while Lander left the Miners with a parting shot when he blasted a three-run homer of his own to left field to cap a four-run top of the seventh.
In between, teammate Cory Manning hustled out a two-out infield single in the fifth that plate two runs, while Austin Blauser knocked in a run ahead of Lander’s blast in the seventh.
That offense proved to be more than enough for Walker, who relieved starter Dan Wascovich in the fourth. Walker tossed the final four innings to get the win. Walker, who pitched 3 2/3 innings in Game 6 on Sunday, allowed one run (earned) on five hits while striking out five and walking one.
Wascovich, who went the distance in a loss in Game 5 Saturday, gave up two earned runs on four hits in three innings of work.
Rossiter, the defending league champs, entered the game looking to complete the series comeback after falling behind 3-0. The Miners had won the past three games in their final at-bat but saw that late-game magic run out on Monday.
Sykesville will now get a much-earned two days of rest before the championship series against top-seeded DuBois begins Thursday evening at Showers Field at 6 p.m. Game 2 will be Saturday in Reynoldsville at 5 p.m., with Game 3 back at Showers on Sunday at 6 p.m.
The Senators threatened from the get-go against Rossiter starter Joey DiPietro, loading the bases with no outs on singles by Fox and Brandon Sicheri and an error. But, DiPietro recorded three straight outs — two via strikeout — to add to the Senators’ woes of hitting with the bases loaded in the series.
Rossiter carried that momentum into the bottom half of the inning and grabbed the lead against Wascovich.
The Miners loaded the bases with one out on a Brandon Matthews walk and singles by Pete Meterko and Mark Saxman. Dakotah Byers then hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Matthews before Wascovich got out of the jam on a fielder’s choice.
Sykesville answered right back in the top of the second.
Lander led off the inning with a single that short-hopped the fence in the left field. DiPietro then got two straight outs before Fox ripped a pitch out to left field.
Miner Darren Byers made a leaping try at the ball, but it just cleared the fence in the “short porch” section of Shaffer Field to put the Senators up 2-1.
Wascovich stranded a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the second before Rossiter tied things up in the third.
Matthews led off with a walk, while Meterko singled for the second time. Wascovich got Saxman to fly out to right, but then hit Dakotah Byers before walking Isaac Stouffer to force home Matthews to make it 202.
Wascovich halted the rally there, fielding a popup and comebacker to end the inning.
Both teams left runners on in the fourth before Sykesville regained the lead in the fifth.
Walker jump-started the inning with a two-out walk, then Austin Blauser was hit by a DiPietro pitch. Lander followed with another walk to load the bases.
That brought Manning to the plate, and chopped a ball on the infield, just beating a throw to first. Walker easily scored on the play, while Blauser hustled all the way around from second as well to give Sykesville a 4-2 lead.
Lander was thrown out trying to take third on the play, but the damage had been done.
Holding the lead, Walker got two quick outs in the bottom of the fifth, but Stouffer extended the inning with a single to right. He was promptly picked off second by catcher Blauser, with third baseman Jake Felix applying the tag to end a rundown and the inning with DiPietro at the plate.
Sykesville got Walker some big insurance runs in the top of the seventh against reliever Tyler Richardson.
Garrett Prosper led off with a single to right and took second on a failed pickoff attempt by Richardson. Walker followed with a single to put runners on the corners before another single by Blauser brought home Prosper. Lander then launched a pitch over the fence in left for a three-rim home to make it 8-2.
That spelled the end for Richardson, who failed to record an out while facing four batters. Dakotah Byers came on and retired three straight to send the game to the bottom of the seventh.
And, the Miners didn’t go quietly as darkness started to fall upon Shaffer Field.
Matthews hit a leadoff double, while Meterko was hit by a pitch. Walker then got Saxman to hit into a 4-6-3 double play that advanced Matthews to third. Byers singled home Matthews to make it 8-3.
The Miners then loaded the bases with two outs on a Stouffer single and DiPietro walk. Walker halted the rally there, striking out Darren Byers to end the game and send the Senators back to the finals after seeing their 5-year reign as champs end last year prior to the championship series.