By Dennis Atwood -- firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW MARKET -- New Market's Francisco Ramirez, who had been 0-for-3 with a walk, got the key timely hit to lift the Rebels to a 6-5 victory over Covington in Valley League action on Sunday.
With the score tied 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth, Ramirez hit a walk-off single over the glove of leaping shortstop Richie Rodriquez plating Jordan Owen for the win.
"I just tried to relax, and tried to put a good swing on the ball and it would take care of itself," Ramirez said.
It was the second one-run loss in the late innings on the day for Covington, who lost their afternoon neutral field game to league-leading Haymarket, 7-6.
Even through Haymarket committed a season-high five errors, Covington blew a 6-4 lead against the Senators in the top of the ninth by issuing two walks and committing an error to load the bases, followed by Brant Jones' single and another error to score the three RBIs. The Lumberjacks also issued a season-high 11 walks.
The neutral field location was arranged as a travel convenience for Covington, 120 miles from New Market, and Haymarket, who headed on down I-81, to beat Staunton, 11-6, in their night game.
Against New Market, both teams scored two runs in the first inning, and Covington picked up one run in the next three frames. New Market picked up a score in fourth for a 5-3 LumberjacksÕ lead.
Andrew Caron (2-for-2, HR, walk) hit his first homer of the year for the Lumberjacks, a rocket shot far over the right-field fence, to lead off the second inning.
Covington starting pitcher Jake Ramsey threw an unusually high 124 pitches through six innings, striking out the side in the sixth. Ramsey give up three runs on seven hits with 11 strikeouts. He was in a good position to be the winning pitcher when he was relieved by Troy Barton.
"[Ramsey] had a couple of things going on with mechanics and we talked about it," Lumberjacks manager Arlan Freeman said. "I wanted him to work through it -- he's a big strong kid. He has the ability go deep in counts. I didn't see him laboring at all, so I kept on sending him out."
The score stayed that way through the seventh inning, then the Rebels picked up their fourth run in the eighth when Barton issued three consecutive two-out walks, putting Ramirez on third base.
Ramirez scored on a wild pitch to make the score 5-4.
New Market reliever Jake Guengerich faced only three Covington batters in the ninth as Ryan Dineen, who hit a one-out single, was caught off first base and tagged out in a run down, followed by a strikeout by Paschel Poston.
In the bottom of the ninth, designated hitter Kenny Mickens (3-for-5, double, two runs) led off with a sharp single to left off of Patrick Goelz, and was advanced to second on Jacob Coker's sacrifice bunt.
Jordan Owen then reached on an error by Rodriquez, moving Mickens to third, followed by an intentional walk to Kevin Brown to load the bases.
Pinch hitter Jordan Walton then lifted a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Mickens with the tying run, followed by Ramirez's walk-off single for the dramatic come-from-behind win.
Guengerich was the fifth Rebel pitcher, and worked the last 2 1/3 innings, shutting out the Lumberjacks on two strikeouts and a walk to pick up the win (2-0).
"It just helped to get ahead on the counts, because I've sort of been struggling lately, then I could use my off-speed and put them away," Guengerich said. "There definitely was a variable strike zone, but it didn't phase me.
"It was a great win, to get it going, grind it out, make the playoffs."
Goelz was charged with the loss (2-2). The Rebels had been in retreat, with three loses in a row, after their five-game winning streak ended with a 3-2 loss at Rockbridge on July 22.
It was the last head-to-head match-up for the teams of the season, ending at two wins each.
"This late in the summer, everybody's getting tired, everybody's getting beat up a little bit, and you hope they can keep the mental part of it together, to pull out games like this," New Market manager Corey Paluga said. "When you've played close to 40 games in the summer, after their 50-plus games in the spring [with their colleges], they may wear down mentally and fold. But they didn't. Scoring three runs in the eighth and ninth combined, that's a great way to stay in the ballgame."
"[New Market] executed in the late innings, and we didn't," Freeman said. "That's just the way baseball works -- tough losses. I thought the guys competed. We just didn't pitch as great as we could have and both Haymarket and New Market executed when they needed to.?