By Brad Fauber
NEW MARKET -- It would seem that the New Market Rebels have started to enjoy playing extra-inning baseball games.
After not playing a single extra frame during the Valley Baseball League regular season, the Rebels have played three consecutive extra-inning playoff contests. New Market picked up its second straight walk-off victory at Rebel Park on Thursday, topping visiting Waynesboro, 6-5, in a wild 10-inning come-from-behind win. The victory gives the Rebels a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series for the South Division championship.
"Once you come to playoff baseball, everything just comes down to one out. That's just how the playoffs are," said Rebels catcher Walker Haymaker, who became the latest hero for New Market with his walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the 10th. "We're a tight-knit team, so we always just kind of nudge it out."
After New Market rallied to tie the game at 5-all with a run each in the eighth and ninth innings off Waynesboro's bullpen, the Rebels quickly put the pressure on Generals reliever Sean Buchholz with a leadoff single from Ben Schmucker to open the 10th.
Buchholz got Landon Prentiss to pop out to shortstop for the inning's first out, but Schmucker stole second on the second pitch to Nick Lustrino to put himself in scoring position. The Generals chose to intentionally walk the lefty Lustrino to get to Haymaker, who was making his first plate appearance of the game after coming on as a defensive replacement in the top of the inning.
Haymaker then delivered the final blow, yanking a line drive single to left field on a 1-1 offering from Buchholz. Rebels manager C.J. Rhodes didn't hesitate to send Schmucker around third base, and the throw home from Waynesboro left fielder Corbin Lucas -- who made a spectacular diving grab to end a New Market threat in the ninth inning -- sailed wide, allowing Schmucker to slide in easily for the game-winning run.
"I've been swinging it good through the playoffs so far, so I've been in a groove already," Haymaker said. "I've really been seeing the ball well. I was looking for a fastball and he gave it to me."
The walk-off single capped an up-and-down day for the New Market offense, which took a 3-0 lead in the fifth inning before the Rebels' bats went cold, allowing Waynesboro to take a 5-3 lead in the top of the eighth inning.
New Market managed just six hits in the game, while Waynesboro tallied seven hits. Rhodes said the day off on Wednesday due to poor weather conditions may have played a factor in Thursday's contest.
The first half of the game was largely a pitchers' duel between New Market starter Reed Garrett and Waynesboro's Kyle Allen, as neither team managed a hit until Generals first baseman Patrick Mazeika delivered a single in the top of the fourth inning.
"Coming off of yesterday and not being able to play yesterday ... you see once again the bats went back to being a little cold," Rhodes said. "Reed took advantage of it early on, as well as their guy did."
New Market finally tallied its first hit of the ballgame off Allen (5 1/3 IP, two hits, four walks, five strikeouts, three runs allowed) in the bottom of the fifth inning when starting catcher Kevin Stypulkowski led off the inning with a single down the third-base line. Ryan Messina walked one out later, and shortstop Brandon Gum came through with a two-out, three-run home run to left field to give New Market a 3-0 lead.
"The first pitch he kind of made me look foolish on a change-up, so I knew he was going to come back with it," said Gum, who went 2-for-4 with three RBIs. "After he went hard away I figured he was going to go with a change-up. He left it up, so I just got the pitch I was looking for."
Waynesboro got a run back off Garrett in the top of the sixth as three singles loaded the bases with one out. Garrett hit Mazeika (2-for-4, home run, four RBIs) to send across a run, but Garrett got a strikeout and a fly out to leave the bases loaded.
Garrett went six innings while allowing just one run on four hits and a walk. He also struck out six.
The Generals took their first lead of the game in the top of the eighth inning, as they erupted for four runs off New Market reliever Reiss Stanley.
Stanley began the inning by issuing back-to-back walks before Mazeika crushed a 2-2 offering over the fence in right field to give Waynesboro a 4-3 lead. Sikes Orvis, who reached on a two-out walk later in the inning, came around to score from first base on a throwing error by Rebels reliever Adam Zipko to give Waynesboro a two-run cushion.
New Market got a run back on a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth, and a sacrifice fly by T.J. Costen tied the game at 5-all in the bottom of the ninth.
Zipko picked up his second victory in as many games, pitching the final 2 1/3 innings for New Market.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org