Whenever Barton and Maynard get together on the baseball diamond, anything can - and often does - happen.
Case in point was Sunday afternoon's Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League regular-season finale between the two long-time Belmont County rivals.
Keeping in tune with "Homecoming Weekend" and all the accompanying festivities, which included several former Braves' players in attendance, veteran Joel Atkinson singled home the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning as Barton rallied for a thrilling, 9-8, victory before a nice-sized crowd at sun-splashed, but pleasant, Henning Field in Crescent.
BARTON CATCHER Jordan Murry receives the ball as Maynard’s Max Schimmel slides into the plate for a run during Sunday’s OVBL?game in Crescent.
"This is a big rivalry and it was a big game," the 40-year-old Atkinson said. "It came down to the end, and that's usually how us and Maynard play each other. I wouldn't have expected anything else."
After Maynard (11-8) rallied from a 7-2 deficit to take an 8-7 lead in the top of the sixth, the hosts (15-4) put together the game-winning comeback when Dustin Hynes bounced a leadoff single through the left side of the infield. Jordan Yager followed with a four-pitch walk from tough-luck loser Travis Stevens, who threw 96 pitches, 65 of which were strikes.
George Laase, who came out of retirement for the afternoon, laced a one-out single down the right field line that scored Hynes to tie the game at 7-up. Following a fielder's choice that erased Yager at third, the sweet-swinging Atkinson chopped a 1-0 pitch through the hole between first and second as Laase chugged home and slid in well ahead of the throw.
"We showed a little grit after having a couple of hiccups, but we fought our way through it and gave ourselves a chance to win the game," Atkinson, a former Barnesville and Mount Union College product, noted.
It appeared that Barton was going to run away early as it snapped a 1-all deadlock with four second-inning tallies.
Jordan Barbina was hit with a pitch leading off and the left-handed hitting Atkinson went the opposite-way with the first of his three one-base knocks. Barbina alertly advanced to third when the ball was bobbled in the outfield.
Jordan Murry's tapper back to the mound was thrown to first by Stevens, but the speedy Barbina broke for the plate on the way. The relay from first baseman Chris Leasure was high as Justin Sabo went up to get it as Barbina slid in. Barbina's foot caught Sabo's on the way up, causing the Maynard catcher to lose his balance. He crashed to the dirt flat on his back, but was able to continue.
After a brief delay to allow Sabo to regain his senses, four of the next five Braves' hitters delivered singles. Two of them - Hynes and Derek Miller - drove in runs. Nick Rocchio's sacrifice fly chased home the other for a 5-1 advantage.
Mark Cisar's two-run roundtripper to deep left-center brought the visitors to within 5-3 in the top of the third, but Barton answered with Rocchio's two-run single up the middle for a 7-3 reading after three frames.
Cisar ignited a four-run uprising in the fifth when Maynard drew even. His RBI double to left plated Stevens, who walked three times and scored three times from the No. 9 slot, and ended Vinnie Kirkpatrick's day on the hill.
Greyson Loweecy, a recent St. Clairsville High graduate who was making his first appearance this season for Barton, was touched up for consecutive singles off the bats of Max Schimmel, Leasure and Ryan Jarvie. Leasure's knocked in a run to make it 7-5. Chase Ripley's sacrifice fly to center cut the deficit to 7-6, and Matt McCain's single through the right side of the infield tied the game and sent Loweecy to the showers.
Laase, who is currently affiliated with the Staunton Braves in the Shenandoah Valley Baseball League in Virginia, entered and de-fused the rally with a groundout and inning-ending strikeout.
Maynard finally re-gained the lead - it led 1-0 on Jarvie's first-inning sacrifice fly - when Ripley's bases-loaded grounder with two outs was misplayed.
That set the stage for Atkinson's dramatics.
"Maynard and Barton. What else can you say?" Barton manager Billy Timko quizzed. "It's a rivalry ... and a good one at that."
Maynard manager Laney Simone agreed.
"We played tough this whole week. We battled back from a pretty good deficit there, but they came back on us."
In addition to Atkinson's three singles and run batted in, Hynes duplicated that feat. Miller added a first-inning RBI double to his single, while Laase, Yager and Ryan Kreiter all had two one-base raps, with Laase recording an RBI. Rocchio finished with a trio of ribbies.
Cisar stroked two doubles and the long ball to account for three RBI. Leasure smacked a trio of singles that plated a run, while McCain had two singles and an RBI.
Laase recorded the mound win, while Mike Muklewicz whiffed the side - the last two looking - to notch the save.
"This was a good way for us to end the regular season and get ready for the playoffs," Timko said.
Maynard 102 041 0 - 8 10 1
Barton 142 002 x - 9 16 1
Batteries: Stevens and Sabo. Kirkpatrick, Loweecy (5), Laase (5), Muklewicz (7) and Murry, Hynes (5).
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org