Sussex County could not force a Game 5 as it dropped an 8-7 result and gave way to the New Jersey Jackals’ first Can-Am League title.
FRANKFORD -- It almost seemed like a formality that the Sussex County Miners were about to pull off another stunning comeback.
Trailing 8-2 after the top of the fourth, the Miners kept building momentum and chipping away. The crowd really got into it, and it seemed like just a matter of time before Sussex County took the lead and forced a Game 5 of the Can-Am League Championship Series.
That was until New Jersey Jackals closer Dylan Brammer entered the game in the bottom of the seventh inning. He was asked to complete a three-inning save after the Jackals had already used the only other reliever they really trust -- Reece Karalus.
Like Mariano Rivera in his heyday, Brammer got the job done and miraculously completed the save and stopped a hot Miners offense right in its tracks. The Jackals held off the hard-charging Miners, 8-7, to capture their first championship since 2004 in the Northeast League -- the last team to win a championship in that league before it became the Can-Am League.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Miners left the bases loaded with one out. Breeland Almadova grounded out to third base for a 5-3 putout at the plate, and Jose Brizuela hit a fly ball to right field to end the game. It was the third time the Miners left the bases loaded.
David Palladino took the hill after hurling seven shutout innings against Rockland in the semifinals with seven strikeouts, two walks and just two hits allowed.
Opposing Palladino was the little-known Christian Tessitore for the Jackals. Tessitore made his first appearance of the season for New Jersey on Aug. 24. This is the 22-year-old’s first professional baseball stop.
His pedigree certainly doesn’t approach that of Palladino’s, who was drafted in the fifth round by the New York Yankees in 2013. While Palladino might just have the best stuff in the starting staff with a fastball in the low 90s and a slider that gets excellent depth, he has had a Jekyll and Hyde quality to him.
Through his first 10 appearances this season, Palladino had a 7.34 ERA. He then began to really harness his talent and got it down to 4.53 by the end of the season before throwing a gem against Rockland.
Sussex County got the good version of Palladino in the first two innings before the bad one reared its ugly head in the third, as the Jackals put a three-spot on the board to take a 3-1 lead.
With runners on first and third with no outs, Palladino looked like he would get out of the jam with consecutive strikeouts. That proved not to be the case when a single by Santiago Chirino tied the game and a walk to Conrad Gregor loaded the bases by Alredo Marte -- the 2019 Can-Am Player of the Year.
After getting the count to 2-2, Palladino could not put Marte away before he hit a sharp grounder up the middle for a two-run single. The Miners quickly responded with a run in the bottom of the third on an opposite-field RBI single by Audy Ciriaco.
The throw to the plate on the Ciriaco single got past Jackals catcher Jason Agresti, but Tessitore was there to back up and was able to get Mikey Reynolds at the plate attempting to score and tie the game.
After allowing an infield single and then throwing a wild pitch, Miners manager Bobby Jones was quick to pull Palladino during the middle of an at-bat and insert Jeff Thompson. Thompson was the odd man out of the postseason rotation after posting a 3.68 ERA in 19 starts.
However, Thompson could not find his rhythm coming out of the bullpen and had difficulty throwing strikes. It turned into a disaster when Thompson walked two hitters and allowed an RBI single to Chirino leading up to a three-run home run to Gregor to right field that gave the Jackals a commanding 8-2 lead.
However, the Miners started chipping away in the bottom of fourth with RBI singles by C.J. Retherford and Gavin Stupienski that made it a 8-4 ballgame, and it was the final inning for Tessitore.
Matt Dallas came out of the bullpen throwing absolute gas at 97 miles per hour, but Jose Brizuela was having none of it as he tattooed a ball over the right field fence to lead off the bottom of the fifth to cut the deficit to 8-5. Dallas was not long for this game and got removed after two batters for Karalus, who the Jackals usually like to preserve for the seventh and eighth innings.
After throwing two shutout innings on Friday, the Miners tacked on another run against Karalus on a Jared Mederos opposite-field RBI single with two outs that put them down just two runs, 8-6. They had a chance to do even better after a Cito Culver single loaded the bases, but a liner by Stupienski was stopped by Issac Wenrich at first.
For the fourth straight inning, the Miners scored at least a run by tacking on another run in the bottom or the sixth. They did so without getting a hit as Karalus walked the first two hitters of the inning before Reynolds bunted them over with a sacrifice.
That allowed the Jackals to intentionally walk Ciriaco to get to the struggling Trey Hair, who did not come through with a pop out to left. However, Karalus continued to be wild and hit Retherford to walk in a run as Sussex County cut its deficit to 8-7.
In relief of Palladino and Thompson, Kevin Grendell pitched 2 2/3 shutout innings. His energy was contagious as he was bouncing off the mound at every opportunity to get the fans fired up. Even when he got taken out of the game for Jose Jose, Grendell was pumping his arms up in the air to get the fans involved.
However, the comeback fell just short as the Miners failed to win back-to-back titles.