|Out at the plate
With home plate umpire Brandon Hoover watching intently, Martin Oil catcher Jake Manning gets ready to tag out Barkman Oil/Russell Trucking’s Jarrod Snowberger. Snowberger was retired trying to score on a single by Drew Ebersole, on a perfect relay from left fielder Alex Miller to shortstop Nate Gray to Manning. (The Daily Herald/Stacey Manning)
Martin Oil was the fourth seed in the 2007 George B. Kelley Federation playoffs, but after an up-and-down season caught fire in the semifinals to knock off ReMax Realty, the top seed, and then went on to win the league championship in the finals against Barkman Oil. Fast forward to 2008. Martin Oil is the fourth seed, and on Thursday night at Vets Field, in the semifinals, they knocked out Barkman Oil/Russell Trucking, who just happened to be the number one seed.
Martin Oil jumped out to a 6-2 lead after two innings and then used a gritty performance from 16-year old pitcher Nate Plummer for a 9-6 victory that eliminated Barkman and sets up a championship final round that will be the best of five against- you guessed it- ReMax Realty.
Plummer walked seven batters and hit six and threw 131 pitches, to prove to be his own worst enemy, but pitched well enough for six innings to pick up the win and move his team into the finals for the second straight year and the fifth time in eight years. Martin Oil became the only Kelley Federation team in the 60-year history of the league to go undefeated (31-0) in 2001, then won titles again in 2002 and 2003.
“Nate Plummer really gutted it out tonight. He pitched with a lot of heart. It wasn’t his best performance, but he managed to get through six innings.” said Martin Oil manager Ed Davis. “I can’t say enough about Nate Gray. After getting bombed by Barkman in game one-never even getting out of the first inning, he came in and shut them down in the seventh to close out the win.”
After Plummer had hit the first two batters in the bottom of the seventh, Davis put in Gray to pitch. Gray walked the first batter to load the bases with still nobody out. Gray collaborated with his defense at that point, getting Barkman cleanup hitter Jordan Saylor to ground into a shortstop Justin Manning-to second baseman Trey Mock, to first baseman Plummer double play. Although Jon Ewart scored on the play to narrow the Martin Oil margin to 9-6, Gray then caught designated hitter Tyler Simpson looking for a call strike three to end the game.
Martin Oil came out swinging after splitting the first two games of the series with a pair of scores in the top of the first, and had it not been for two base-running blunders, might have put the game out of reach then and there.
Justin Manning bunted for a base hit on the game’s first pitch, and twin brother Jake Manning walked. Nate Gray ripped a single to score both Mannings and continued on to second on Barkman’s lone error of the game. Gray wandered too far off second however, and was picked off for the first out. With two down, Jimmy Watters and Justin Miller walked. Plummer hit a ball that fell in among several infielders for a base hit, but somehow, Watters and Miller both ended up at third base, and Watters was tagged out for the third out of the frame.
Barkman Oil came right back to score twice and tie the game after one inning. Starting pitcher Drew Ebersole doubled in one run, and then scored on a Wes Flaugh single.
Martin Oil took control in the second with four tallies. Mike Albright and Trey Mock opened the at-bat with singles to knock out Ebersole and bring in Marcus Morgan. Albright scored on a wild pitch, and Mock scored on a sacrifice fly by Jake Manning. Gray was hit by a pitch and Chad Coho doubled to get Gray home. Coho scored on a single by Watters.
Barkman cut the deficit to 6-3 in the third when Simpson singled to plate Saylor, who had singled and moved to second on a wild pitch.
In the top of the fourth, Martin Oil put two more scores on the board. Justin and Jake Manning opened the inning with singles. Watters score Justin Manning with a sac fly, and Plummer helped himself with a single that got Jake Manning home.
Flaugh tripled home two runs in the bottom of the sixth to close the score to 9-5, but Martin Oil added one more insurance run in the sixth when Gray walked and scored a base hit by Justin Miller.
“We have hit the ball better as a team during this series than anytime during the year,” said Davis. “Everybody had a big part tonight. We have been telling them all year they are a good team, good hitters, but they too often didn’t believe it.
“Justin and Jake Manning both did a great job getting on base at the beginning of the lineup, and Nate Gray, Nate Plummer and Trey Mock each had two hits. Jimmy Watters and Justin Miller and Mike Albright all contributed tonight- each had a hit and either scored a run, or drove one in. Now we have to regroup quickly and get ready starting Friday for ReMax, who will be gunning for us after we knocked them out of the playoffs last year.”
Martin Oil, the fourth seed, and third seed ReMax Realty, who defeated second seed Juniata VFW in two straight, will begin their championship finals tonight at Vets Field at 7 p.m. Both finalists also qualify for the NABF Regional, to be held at Altoona on July 24-27.
Martin Oil 9 Barkman/Russell 6
Martin Oil – Ju. Manning, 2b-ss, 5-2-2; Ja. Manning, c, 2-1-2; Gray, ss-p, 2-2-2; C. Coho, 3b, 4-1-1; Watters, rf-cf, 2-0-1; J. Miller, 1b-rf, 2-0-1; Plummer, p-1b, 4-0-2; A. Miller, lf, 0-0-0; Albright, dh, 3-1-1; Mock, cf-2b, 4-1-2. TOTALS 28-9-13.
Barkman/Russell – Ewart, 3b-c, 1-2-0; Snowberger, 2b, 1-0-0; Ebersole, p-3b, 4-1-2; Saylor, ss, 4-2-1; Neil, c, 0-0-0; Morgan, p, 0-0-0; Simpson, dh, 4-1-2; Flaugh, 1b, 2-0-2; Greenleaf, lf, 3-0-1; Hardy, cf, 3-0-0; Russell, ph, 1-0-0; Nash, rf, 3-0-0. TOTALS 26-6-8.
Martin Oil 240 201 0 9-13-1.
Barkman/Russell 201 002 1 6- 8-1.
E: Gray, Greenleaf.
2B: C. Coho, Ebersole.
RBI: Gray 2, Ja. Manning, C. Coho, Watters, Plummer, Flaugh 3, Ebersole, Simpson.
SO: Plummer 6, Gray 1, Morgan 2.
BB: Plummer 7, Ebersole 3, Morgan 3.
WP: Plummer LP: Ebersole