BROOKVILLE — While the Pulaski Generals were celebrating an apparent go-ahead rally from the dead in the top of the seventh inning, so were the Brookville Grays moments later.
With the bases loaded and one out and the Grays white-knuckling a very slim 6-5 lead after going into the inning up 6-0 and needing three outs, Garrett Starr one-hopped a shot back to the Grays third pitcher of the inning Joey Lopez.
Lopez fired to home to catch Nathan Bonfardine, who then threw to first to nab Starr.
The ball hit Starr and deflected past Grays first baseman Aaron Park, but as the Generals were celebrating a new-found 7-6 lead, home plate umpire Keith Lepionka already had the out call on Starr for interfering with the throw to first.
The rule: A runner must not be inside the foul line and doesn’t necessarily have to be hit by the throw.
And instead, it was a 6-5 final.
Game over and the Grays head to DuBois up 2-1 for at least game four of the best-of-five Federation League semifinal series. Game five will also be in DuBois Thursday at a site and time to be finalized if needed.
The Generals were naturally perplexed afterward, or perhaps more than that.
“He was running a straight path, wasn’t out that way or this way too much, so where is he supposed to go?” Generals manager Tom Frank said. “You can’t make that call there. I mean yes, we should have scored earlier and left a lot of guys on base and that’s baseball. But they let us back into it and then we had it taken away from us like that. It just (makes you mad).”
And the Grays, well, veteran manager Bob McCullough was only scratching his head at how his team nearly blew a 6-0 lead after seeing five marvelous innings by starter Thomas Plummer.
“I didn’t think we would go through that many pitchers to get out of this thing,” he said. “I was worried about that and it was going to be a nightmare. But the kid was inside the line and he interfered with the play.”
Plummer allowed three hits while striking out five and walking two and hitting two batters. Over 100 pitches, it was time for him to head to center field.
“The longer he goes the better he gets,” McCullough said. “I thought he could stay another inning, but they didn’t think so and he’s pitched a lot.”
Sam Leadbetter misplayed a chopper back to the mound and then hit Jace Miner before giving up back-to-back singles to Bryson Paulinellie and Cory Bookhamer. Chase Palmer relieved him and got Braden Paulinellie to hit a sacrifice fly to center to make it 6-2.
Palmer walked Adam Bankovich and Eric Schneider to force in another run to make it 6-3. Then Joey Lopez relieved Palmer and walked Jake Miknis to make it 6-5. Lopez hit Ty Bittner to load the bases to set up the game-ending play that went the Grays way.
Earlier, the Grays scored four runs in five innings off Generals starter Noah Schneider. Aaron Park reached on an error to start the second inning, reached third on two wild pitches and scored on Hunter Geer’s single.
In the fourth, they knocked Schneider out after batting around, scoring three runs. Lopez walked with the bases loaded and Brady Caylor singled in a run before Palmer scored from third on a wild pitch. Kevin Gnacinski got the final out of the fourth and pitched a scoreless fifth before the Grays scored two more runs in the bottom of the sixth off Hunter Antonuccio.
Those runs turned out to be vital. Geer walked with the bases loaded to force in Lopez who led off with a walk and Drew Celis’ forceout grounder that was a potential double play ball to third wound up plating Caylor who reached with his third single of the game.
The Grays outhit the Generals, 8-5.
In previous games:
SUNDAY, July 19
Grays 3, Pulaski 2
At Showers Field, the Grays evened up the series and held off the Generals despite giving up five hits in the first two innings.
But the Grays limited the Generals to just one run as starter Joey Lopez went the first 4 2/3 innings before giving way to Hunter Geer with two outs in the fifth inning.
By that point, it was already the eventual final score as Geer got the hard-earned seven-out save by limiting the Generals to one hit and a hit batter while striking out one. With Cory Bookhamer on second after a one-out double in the bottom of the seventh, Geer was able to get a groundout and strikeout to secure the must-win.
The Grays scored twice in the second inning as it took advantage of four consecutive walks to start the inning on its way to a two-run frame to take the lead for good as Sam Leadbetter, Plummer and Doc Neiman all drew walks to load the bases, before a bases-loaded walk issued to Palmer pushed across Leadbetter for the tying run.
After Generals starter Tyler Passmore recorded a strikeout for the first out of the inning, Brady Caylor hit a soft grounder to third allowing Plummer to score the go-ahead run.
The Grays scored their final in in the third. Aaron Park led off by driving a full-count pitch into left-center field for a double. Passmore then retired the next two batters of the inning on a fly out to short followed by a strikeout.
Plummer then continued his strong game both in the field and at the plate by doubling to the wall in left field to score Park from second and make it a 3-1 game.
The Generals quickly got the run back, as they took advantage of four walks to score their final run.
Adam Bankovich led off by drawing a walk before Miknis later reached on a one-out walk before a groundout resulted in the second out of the frame.
Drew Bankovich then took a full-count pitch for a ball to load the bases, as Ty Bittner came in to pinch-hit and drew a bases-loaded walk to plate Adam Bankovich to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Lopez was able to escape the jam with a strikeout as Pulaski, which left seven runners on base over the first three innings of the game, stranded the bases loaded.
The Grays made several big defensive plays that keyed the big win. Plummer tracked down a drive to left-center by Jake Miknis in the first inning, taking away a double, although it was a sacrifice fly to score the Generals’ first run. Also in the first, Chase Palmer made a diving grab in right-center field to save at least one other run.
In the second inning, Plummer gunned down Drew Bankovich trying to score from second on a single. Bonfardine also flagged down a hard hit ball at third base early in the game, getting a big out at first.
The Generals outhit the Grays, 6-5, as Passmore allowed two hits in his three innings, but he walked seven and hit a batter. Kevin Gnacinski threw four scoreless innings of relief, allowing three hits while striking out two.
Plummer had two of the five Grays hits.
Both teams combined to strand 21 runners, 11 by the Grays.
SATURDAY, July 18
Pulaski 11, Grays 2
In the semifinal series opener at McKinley Field, things went bad late for the Grays as Pulaski scored 10 runs in the fifth and sixth innings after trailing 2-1 entering the fifth.
Generals left-hander Phil Myers went six innings and scattered six hits while striking out three and walking one. The Generals had 13 hits off Grays pitchers Kane McCall and Chase Palmer through six innings. Cory Bookhamer finished with three hits, doubling and tripling. Bryson Paulinellie singled three times and made an outstanding diving catch in center field in the seventh inning.
The Grays scored both of their runs in the fourth as Nathan Bonfardine led off with a single and went to third on Hunter Geer’s one-out single. Dan Ion singled in Bonfardine and Doc Nieman singled in Geer for a 2-1 lead.
But the Generals scored three times in the fifth for a 4-2 lead, then put the game away after sending 11 batters to the plate and scoring seven runs in the fifth inning.
Bonfardine had two hits, including a fifth-inning double.
Spike Island 0
At Bigler, the Grays finished off the Spike Island Pirates in two games of their best-of-three first-round series with a 12-Run Rule win in five innings.
Hunter Geer scattered four hits while striking out three and walking one. He was also one of five Grays with two hits apiece along with Nathan Bonfardine, Aaron Park, Dan Ion and Chase Palmer
The Grays set the tone early, scoring five runs in the top of the first inning. Park, Ion and Sam Leadbetter singled in runs and Palmer doubled in a run in the first inning while three walks and four straight run-scoring singles sparked a five-run fifth inning. Joey Lopez, Geer, Bonfardine and Park singled in runs.