By Gary R. Rasberry
COLDWATER -- With Parkway needing just one more game to make the districts, Tyler Brickley came off his forced sabbatical to try and wrap up a district berth against Marion.
As good as Brickley was on Thursday evening, the Flyers' Kurt Homan was equal to the task.
The two pitchers shut each other's team down for seven innings, scattering six total hits along the way.
In the eighth, Parkway took advantage of two Flyer errors and Brickley made it stand up in the bottom the eighth as Parkway earned a district berth with a 1-0 win at Veterans' Field in Coldwater.
The Panthers now play Coldwater tonight at 6 p.m. to decide the seeding of the Mercer County teams at the district, which starts Sunday at noon at the Wally Post Athletic Complex in St. Henry. If Parkway wins the first game, a second game will be played immediately following the first game. Brickley, who sat out the last two Panther games after being ejected for not sliding into home during Sunday's game against Marion, picked up where he left off on Sunday, when he struck out two and allowed one hit in one inning of work.
Brickley struck out 10 batters, scattered two walks and two hits over eight innings. Of Brickley's 98 pitches, 64 went for strikes.
Parkway coach Mike Moorman knew that his pitcher would come up big.
"Talking before the game, I knew he was going to come out all fired up," said Moorman. "I told him to stay within himself, because he hasn't pitched a lot over the last seven days, just one inning. He might come out fired up and throw the ball hard and leave it up. He pitched great and that was what we expected out of him. He's our ace."
But just as Brickley was dominant over the Flyers, Homan had his charms going against the Panthers. Homan, who got the win with two innings of relief on Sunday against Parkway, worked his way out of the few jams Parkway presented him through the first seven innings, scattering four hits and three walks while striking out six in a 111-pitch, 67 for strikes, performance.
"Kurt pitched a great game," said Marion coach Craig Wolters. "He got himself out of some jams. He has tremendous confidence up there. That's great (Continued from page 1B)
to have in a pitcher."
Moorman was impressed with Homan.
"Homan pitched a great game," said Moorman. "He kept us off-balanced with the curve ball. For the most part, he got ahead of our hitters. We couldn't figure him out."
The game came down to the top of the eighth with Homan looking at the top three of the Panther order, a group that was 1-for-8 in the game. Rikki Covarrubias started the inning by grounding to short. The ball was bobbled and the throw low as Covarrubias dashed through the base and tumbled, reaching on an error.
Alex Shaffer stepped up as Moorman called for the bunt. Shaffer laid a good one down the third base line. Kurt Heitkamp made the play to Jake Heitkamp at first for the out. Covarrubias rounded second and dashed for third. Jake Heitkamp threw to third, but the throw went into the fence in short left, allowing Covarrubias to score. Homan got Derek Snyder to line out to third before getting Steve Hays to pop to short to end the inning.
"We got a break there at the end," said Moorman. "The bunt worked for us. Rikki was aggressive going to third. It's a hard one to lose in a game like this."
All that remained was for Brickley to get three outs against the bottom third of the Flyer order. Kurt Heitkamp stepped up and ran the count to 1-2 before fouling two shots off. On the next pitch, Brickley got Heitkamp to chase one low for the 10th strikeout of the game. Homan, who had one of the two hits in the game, lined the first pitch right to a leaping Covarrubias for the second out. Chris Stucke stepped to try and keep the game going, but on a 2-2 pitch lined out to Jensen Painter at first to end the game.
While Brickley was solid, the defense came up with its best game of the sectional. After committing eight errors in the last two games, the Panthers played spotless defense, coming up with the big plays to end any Flyer rallies.
The big play came in the sixth. Stucke led off with a walk to bring up Mitch Thobe. Thobe tried the bunt but popped it up. Hays charged and made the catch, then threw to first to get Stucke off the bag for the double play.
"They say the good teams always make the plays," said Moorman. "That's exactly what happened tonight. We didn't have any errors and made the plays when we needed to. That (catch) that Stevie made was an amazing play and was huge since there was no outs at the time."
Marion also came up with big defensive plays to stop rallies. In the top of the sixth, Snyder got an one-out single. Hays tried to set up the hit-and-run, but popped it back to Homan just to the right of the mound. Snyder was just about to touch second when he realized he needed to go back. Homan easily threw to Jake Heitkamp to end the threat.
"I have no complaints with this team," said Wolters. "They never gave up all year long. We just didn't come up with the big hits we needed."
Now the Panthers are in the district, albeit taking the long way having to play three games in three days to make the finals.
"We're right where we need to be," said Moorman. "Tomorrow we're down in pitching again. We're not going to show a whole lot. We're going to go out and have fun and hopefully get those games tomorrow."