BROOKVILLE — The oldest player in the lineup but up the biggest numbers in a huge inning.
Yes, 2-for-2, a three-run double and a grand slam homer in the bottom of the sixth alone for the Brookville Grays’ 37-year-old extra hitter Joe Culler.
Turning a close game into a 12-Run Rule Federation League rout, Culler played the lead role in the Grays’ 13-run bottom of the sixth that turned a tight 1-0 game upside down as the visiting PGP Huskers of Clearfield ran out of pitching.
The 14-0 win pushed the Grays to 6-3 while the Huskers, who beat the Grays 8-5 last Thursday in Clearfield, fell to 3-6.
Culler, a Blairsville resident and math teacher at Kiski Area, caught on with the Grays nine years ago and has played on and off with them since. He was the fifth straight batter to reach base in the bottom off the sixth off Huskers starter Hunter Dixon when he cleared the bases with his double to left-center.
Then with still just two outs and nine runs already in, he batted for a second time and walked the game off via the Mercy Rule with a home run off Blake Prestash over the left-field field. He walked his first two at-bats.
“I always like to work a pitcher and get as many pitches I can you and just got fortunate to get what I was sitting on, made a good swing both times and we were able to get out of here with a win,” Culler said. “These guys beat us last week, so it’s good to get one on them.”
The lone run going into the bottom of the sixth came in the fourth when the Grays, who missed a chance at a bigger inning with four straight singles to start the inning, scored on Nathan Bonfardine’s one-out single.
Grays starter Brady Caylor, in his second effective outing of the year, tossed a three-hitter in his five innings, walking one and striking out one, before giving way to Sam Leadbetter in the top of the sixth.
The Huskers had runners on first and third with one out, but Leadbetter got Alan Myers to line hard to centerfielder Hunter Geer, which didn’t allow for Ty Troxell to tag from third. Then Matt Bailor lined a hard shot to shortstop Joey Lopez to end the threat.
Then the floodgates opened in the bottom of the sixth. Dixon had allowed four hits with four strikeouts and three walks through five innings, including escaping the fourth inning without bigger damage. However, it was the end of the line for him in the sixth as Geer doubled inside the first-base bag, Lopez singled him in, Dan Ion singled as did Bonfardine to load the bases for Culler’s bases-clearing double.
Tanner LaBenne doubled, chasing Dixon from the game in favor of Prestash, who walked Chase Palmer before getting Drew Celis to fly out. Jamison Rhoades singled to right to drive in LaBenne and Leadbetter walked to force in another run. Back-to-back bases loaded singles by Geer and Lopez scored two more runs before Prestash struck out Ion. A walk to Drew Beichner set up Culler’s game-ending blast.
For Clearfield, comprised of just about a whole roster of returning high school players, it was a matter of running out of pitching. But at 3-6, manager Sid Lansberry is glad to have the opportunity that was afforded them with American Legion baseball folding for the summer.
“We played three or four really good games this year and won three of them and we beat (the Grays) last week,” Lansberry said. “We were out of pitching tonight.
“What hurts these high school kids didn’t have two or three months of practice with no skill development. We had two practices before we started games. I wanted to start a week later, but that’s OK. Next year, we might not go back to Legion, we may stay (in the Fed League).”
Prestash doubled, and Kyle Elensky and Myers singled for the Huskers’ hits.
Both teams play again Sunday, the Huskers visit Sykesville in Reynoldsville for a 5 p.m. start while the Grays visit Spike Island in Houtzdale for a 4 p.m. game.
GRAYS 14, HUSKERS 0
Score By Innings
Huskers 000 000 - 0
Grays 000 10(13) - 14
Two outs when game-ending runs scored
Karson Rumskey cf 2000, Kyle Elensky 3b 2010, Alan Myers dh 3101, Hunter Dixon p 0000, Matt Bailor c 3000, Nick Domico 1b 1000, Morgan Billotte ss 2000, Nolan Barr lf 2000, Blake Prestash eh-p 2010, Ryan Gearhart 2b 2000, Ty Troxell rf 1000. Totals: 20-0-3-0.
Brady Caylor p 3000, Sam Leadbetter p 0101, Hunter Geer cf 4231, Joey Lopez ss 4332, Curvin Goheen lf 2010, Dan Ion lf 2110, Nathan Bonfardine c 2121, Drew Beichner ph 0100, Joe Culler eh 2227, Tanner LaBenne 1b 3110, Chase Palmer rf 2000, Cayliff Worling ph 0100, Drew Celis 2b 3000, Jamison Rhoades 3b 3111. Totals: 30-14-14-13.
Errors: Huskers 1, Grays 0. LOB: Grays 5, Huskers 4. 2B: Geer, Culler, LaBenne; Prestash. HR: Culler. SAC: Rumsky. SB: Bonfardine, Celis.
Huskers: Dixon 5 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO (faced six batters in 6th inning); Prestash 2/3 IP, 4 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 1 SO.
Grays: Caylor 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO; Leadbetter 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO.
Winning pitcher: Caylor. Losing pitcher: Dixon.