By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW MARKET -- With eligibility for postseason play hanging in the balance, the New Market Rebels had to play first-place Haymarket in their next-to-last game of the regular season in a Sunday night Valley League contest.
Haymarket's league-leading team batting average (.298) was no guarantee of victory, but designated hitter Brent Mikionis sliced a two-out, walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Rebels a 3-2 win. Coupled with losses by Woodstock and Rockbridge, the victory clinched an eighth-place finish, and an extended season for New Market.
Mikionis (2-for-5) also scored the Rebels' first run, after he singled to lead off the second inning.
"Anything can happen, that was our goal, just make it to the postseason," Mikionis said. "I kind of had a feeling [Kevin Ferguson] was going to go off-speed, and they were throwing me a lot of sliders inside and I was pulling off. He kind of jammed me a little bit, but since I was thinking that way I could just muscle it and hit it inside-out."
Haymarket scored a run in the top of the first with consecutive two-out doubles by Brant Jones and Yoandy Barroso. Jones' smash went off the fence in left, 390 feet.
In the bottom of the second, Mikionis led off with a single, followed by center fielder Dan Schafferman's (2-for-3, double, walk) double. Jordan Walton and Joe Maloney each hit sacrifice flies to plate Mikionis and Schafferman.
Haymarket tied the score at 2-2 in the seventh when Scott Ferrara reached on a one-out fielder's choice, stole second and third bases, and was plated by Brant Jones with a single.
Rebels' starter Billy Falasco worked 2 1/3 innings, giving up one run on three hits, and left trailing 2-1 when lefty Blaine Sims, usually a starter, relieved him in the top of the third.
Sims (Arkansas Tech) turned in a strong appearance, working 6 1/3 innings, yielding one run on three hits, four strikeouts, and three walks.
"That may have been his third relief appearance, and as much as we would like him to start in the first couple of playoff games, it was necessary that we win this game," New Market manager Corey Paluga said.
Later in the evening, the Northern Virginia Daily was informed that Sims was going to Danville today to sign with the Atlanta Braves organization.
New Market (19-24) closer Jake Guengerich relieved Sims with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and got Jones (3-for-4, RBI, walk, .361) to hit into the third consecutive 6-3 groundout of the inning.
Guengerich issued a lead-off walk to Yoandy Barroso in the 10th inning, then struck out Tyler White, picked Barroso off first base, and struck out Jimmy Vahalik to pick up the win (3-1).
"It feels really good, because now it looks like we're going to make the playoffs," Guengerich said. "I know [Haymarket] can really hit the fastball, so I got ahead with off-speed, and I was able to switch around on them with the fastball and put them away."
"I told they guys, in this last stretch, stay focused, stay mentally there, because in the end, these are the games that are going to make or break the season," Paluga said. "And they've done a great job of not giving in, and not folding."
Senators first baseman Rudy Flores has not played since July 18, when he was hitting .423 through 24 games. Haymarket head coach said Flores has been out with some unspecified injury.
"Flores should be back tomorrow, against Front Royal, to get him ready for the playoffs" Haymarket manager Ryan Fecteau said.
The Rebels grabbed a key 1-0 win over Luray on Saturday night, as Andrew Kirk pitched his first complete game of the season, and the team's fourth, yielding four hits and striking out 10. Kevin Brown reached third base on a wild pitch and scored when Luray committed the only error of the game as New Market took sole possession of eighth place at 18-24.
New Market travels to Luray tonight to close out the regular season. New Market will have to face Haymarket again in the opening round of the playoffs, which start Tuesday.