DuBOIS — Coming off a week’s rest, the DuBois Rockets wasted little time making a statement in the Federation League Championship Series with a 7-2 victory against Sykesville Thursday evening at Showers Field.
DuBois got another strong outing from veteran TJ Gornati on the mound, while the Rockets’ offense pounded out 10 hits against a pair of Sykesville pitchers. Seven different Rockets had hits in the win, while five different players knocked in runs.
That offensive output proved to be more than enough for Gornati, who allowed two earned runs on five hits in the complete-game effort. He struck out three and walked three.
Sykesville’s big blow against Gornati was a two-out, two-run double by Garrett Prosper in the top of the fourth that made it a 3-2 game. That’s as close as the Senators got thoough, as the Rockets scored twice in both the fifth and sixth innings to put the Game 1 victory away.
Sykesville, which ended its seven-game semifinal series vs. Rossiter Monday, tried to make some noise on the top of the first against Gornati.
Jared Baummer reached with one out when he struck out on a pitch in the dirt that went to the backstop. Adam Fox followed with a walk, but Gornati got a fielder’s choice and a strikeout to end the rally.
That inning-ending strikeout started a run of seven straight outs for the righty.
The offense got a lead for Gornati during that stretch.
Sean Zimmerman led off the bottom of the second with a double to left-center. Justin Sleigh followed with a walk before Zimmerman tagged up on a fly ball to deep center.
That played proved key, as Clayton Read followed with a shallow fly ball to left field. Zimmerman also tagged on that fly out and dove in safely just ahead of the tag of catcher Austin Blauser to put the Rockets up 1-0.
DuBois added to that lead in the bottom of the third.
Zane Morgan got things started with a one-out single. Nate Sabados, making his return to the Rockets lineup from injury, then hammered a Brandon Simbeck pitch off the fencing in right-center. Morgan sprinted around the bases to score from first, while Sabados held up at first with a single.
Walks to Zimmerman and Sleigh loaded the bases for Matt Zimmerman, who scored Sabados on a fielder’s choice to make it 3-0. Simbeck then got Read to line out to left to strand two runners on base.
Sykesville answered back in the top of the fourth.
Fox led off with the Senators’ first hit, blooping a double just fair down the right-field line. Jake Felix followed with a single to put runners on the corners, but Gornati retired the next two hitters while keeping the runners where they were.
A walk by Blauser loaded the bases for Prosper, who smacked a Gornati pitch the other way down the left-field line. The ball landed just fair and bounced into the left-field bleachers for a two-run book-rule double to make it a 3-2 game.
Gornati ended the Senators’ rally there, getting Cory Manning to line out to center for the final out of the inning.
Holding a one-run lead, DuBois two big insurance runs in the fifth.
Sabados led off the inning with a single and was replaced by pinch-runner Gabe Bembenic. Sabados had two hits in his return, while Josh Sorbera also had two hits for the Rockets.
After a lineout, Sleigh doubled to put two runners in scoring position. That spelled the end for Simbeck, as Sykesville went to Jude Lander in relief. The Senators intentionally walked Matt Zimmerman to load the bases, a move that ultimately didn’t pay off.
Read followed that walk with a RBI single to center, while pinch-hitter Dan Bowman drove in Sleigh with a sacrifice fly to center to put the Rockets up 5-2.
DuBois tacked on two more runs in the sixth for good measure.
Thayne Morgan reached on an error to open the inning, while twin brother Zane Morgan followed with a single. Gornati, pinch-hitting for Sabados, then bunted the runners over.
Lander and the Sykesville then elected to intentionally walk Sean Zimmerman to load the bases. Once again, that decision failed to pay off as Lander hit Sleigh for force in a run before Matt Zimmerman plated Zane Morgan with a fielder’s choice to set the eventual final at 7-2.
Pinch-hitter Devon Walker tried to jump-start a rally for the Senators in the seventh with a leadoff walk, but the DuBois defense promptly ended the game from there.
Read made a nice grab on a popup near the left-field line for the first out, bring Jared Baummer to the plate. Baummer hit a grounder to second baseman Matt Zimmerman, who tagged out Walker as he ran to second before throwing on to first to complete a game-ending double play.
Game 2 of the series is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday in Reynoldsville, while Game 3 is back at Showers Field Sunday at 6 p.m.