FRANKFORD -- Over the past two years, the Sussex County Miners coming through in the biggest moments has seemingly become second nature.


It has almost been expected that not matter what the situation is at the end of the game that the Miners would dig deep and find a way to come out on top. However, when the Miners reached down to find their usual magic in Game 3 of the Can-Am League Championship Series, they came up empty-handed.


The New Jersey Jackals stunned the home crowd at Skylands Stadium by shutting out the Miners, 2-0, to take a 2-1 series lead on Friday evening. The Jackals will look to celebrate a Can-Am League championship on Sussex County's home field Saturday at 6 p.m.


Despite only having six hits, the Miners had traffic on the bases in all but one inning, but could not come through. The most egregious occurrence was in the bottom of the ninth when Jose Brizuela got things started by getting his hands on an inside pitch on the inner third of the plate to drive it the other way for a single.


After a Cito Culver flyout to center field, Brizuela got way too far off the bag on a Gavin Stupienski flare to second base and got thrown out easily to end the game on a double play to complete a big-time blunder.


Miners manager Bobby Jones entrusted Andrew Gist with the ball in the pivotal swing game. Gist came in on a hot streak with seven quality starts in his last eight outings dating back to July 12.


In the Can-Am semifinals against Rockland, Gist came into this exact situation and delivered a gem to give Sussex County control of the series by only allowing two earned runs on seven hits in seven innings with five strikeouts and no walks. To close out the regular season, Gist allowed just one earned run on four hits across six innings against New Jersey.


His counterpart, Justin Brantley struggled in the regular season with a 5.40 ERA, but came up heroic for the Jackals against the Trois-Rivieres Aigles in Game 3 of the other semifinals series by delivering six shutout innings with just two hits allowed and 10 strikeouts.


He also outdueled Gist in that Aug. 29 game by not allowing an earned run over seven innings against Sussex County. Thus, Brantley was coming in on a streak of 13 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.


Brantley pitched six shutout innings of two-hit ball with seven strikeouts and four walks to turn that streak into 20 consecutive innings, as he was a nemesis to the Miners again.


The Jackals are in this spot on the brink of a championship in large part due to their powerful middle of the order. Two of those guys helped give New Jersey an early 2-0 lead in the top of the second when center fielder David Harris followed up an Alfredo Marte leadoff single with a two-run home run to left field.


Harris continued his assault on Sussex County pitching after hitting .424 (14-for-33) against the Miners in the regular season. After hitting .331 over a full season with the Jackals last year, they reacquired Harris on Aug. 1, and all he’s done since is hit .342 in 111 at-bats to make New Jersey’s middle of the order that much more of a force.


Harris hit right behind the cleanup hitter, Marte, a former MLB player with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim from 2013-2015. Marte was named the 2019 Can-Am Player of the Year and led the league in both home runs (16) and RBI (88).


Conrad Gregor is third in the lineup and led the Can-Am League with a .460 on-base percentage while leading the Jackals with a .322 batting average.


Meanwhile, a Sussex County lineup that came into the evening hitting a robust .349 in the postseason was absolutely stymied by Brantley. Five Miners -- Stupienski, Jared Mederos, Cito Culver, Mikey Reynolds and Breeland Almadova -- came in hitting over .400. That does not even include Brizuela at .389 or Audy Ciriaco and his three home and nine RBI.


Over the first four innings, Brantley allowed just two hits and two walks with six strikeouts. Only Stupienski made it to scoring position in the bottom of the third, but he was stranded by a Reynolds fly out and a Ciriaco strikeout.


Brantley used a double-play grounder to escape the fifth before getting out of more trouble in the sixth. Mederos had the only two hits of the game for the Miners off Brantley, so the right-hander was careful and started off Mederos with three straight sliders, eventually leading to a leadoff walk.


Sussex County gave Brantley an out with Reynolds getting a sac bunt down before Ciriaco was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with two outs. On a 3-2 count to Trey Hair, Brantley executed a slider to send him back to the dugout on a whiff.


Brantley's final out of the game came on a C.J. Retherford fly out to right field.


The hard-throwing Reece Karalus replaced Brantley for the bottom of the seventh, and the Miners fell into some unfortunate luck. With the bases loaded and one out, the Miners had Mederos up with a 3-1 count. It's all you could have asked for in that situation.


After Karalus blew a fastball by him for strike two, Mederos made hard contact on the ensuing 3-2 fastball and roped it up the middle. However, excellent scouting by the Jackals had second baseman Nelson Ward and shortstop Santiago Chirino both shaded up the middle.


The rocket off Mederos' bat was hit so hard it deflected off the glove of Chirino to the left on the second base bag, but Ward was right there on the other side oft the bag to pick it up, step on second and and had plenty of time to complete the double play with the throw to first since the ball was hit so hard.


Following a Reynolds leadoff single in the bottom of the eighth, the Miners were retired easily in order.


Gist allowed just two earned runs on five hits with six strikeouts and one walk in seven innings of work.