CARMICHAELS -- Nate Zimcosky didn't want to see his teammate's extra effort go to waste.
The Masontown slugger made sure of that on the next pitch.
Zimcosky belted a tiebreaking, two-out, two-run homer in the seventh inning after Willie Palmer beat the relay to first base on a potential double-play grounder and Masontown hung on for a 6-5 Fayette County Baseball League playoff win at Carmichaels on Sunday.
Winning pitcher Zach Uhazie gutted out a complete game on a scorching hot day as defending champion Masontown took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three semifinal series. Game two is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at German-Masontown Park.
Third-seeded Masontown (10-5 in the regular season) battled back from deficits of 1-0, 2-1 and 4-3.
"These guys fight all the way," Masontown manager John Palmer said. "They were champions last year and they know what it takes to win. There isn't any giving up with this team."
The score was 4-4 when Masontown's Kaine Frye, who had two hits, reached on a one-out infield single to start the seventh, prompting Copperheads manager Dickie Krause to call on Conner Kelly to relieve Joby Lapkowicz. The move seemed like it would pay off when Palmer hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Ron Nopwasky, who flipped to shortstop Chuck Gasti for the second out, but Palmer hit the bag ahead of the throw to first baseman Joel Spishock to keep the inning alive.
"They're all trained and taught to hustle down the line," manager Palmer said.
"There was a double-play ball that Willie hustled out," Zimcosky said. "I was thinking to myself, 'take advantage of it.' I was looking for a first-pitch fastball to try to swing and put one somewhere where Willie could score."
Zimcosky sent a drive over the left field fence to give Masontown a 6-4 lead.
"I didn't know if it had the height but it made it out just barely," said the former Laurel Highlands star. "It felt great after being in the heat all day."
"That was a clutch hit for Nate," manager Palmer said. "He's been clutch all year and once again he came through for us."
The second-seeded Copperheads, owner of 14 FCBL titles (15 if you count a year when they had the best regular-season record but no playoffs were held) weren't about to fold.
Gasti drew a one-out walk and Kelly singled to center to build a threat against Uhazie in the bottom of the seventh. Nopwasky to hit a grounder to third baseman Zimcosky who tapped third for a force out but threw wildly to first, allowing Kelly to score and Nopwasky, as the potential tying run, to reach second.
It was Masontown's lone error of the game.
That brought up Jacob Fordyce who fouled off three two-strike pitches before sending a fly ball to right field but Austin Bergman was there to squeeze it for the final out.
"We played our hearts out," Krause said. "I loved the intensity, just like that last at bat. That's a 16-year-old kid and he hung in there against one of the best pitchers in the league.
"I was really happy with the effort. We just have to be cleaner defensively. That was the difference."
Krause, whose team committed four errors, was impressed with Masontown's defense.
"They were as clean as could be," he said. "Zimcosky makes a great play at third, their right fielder (Austin Bergman) cuts off a (potential) double, the first baseman (Mike Coll) makes a beautiful backhand play on Lapkowicz."
Krause, whose team was 11-4 in the regular season, was pleased to see players rise up to fill some of his squad's voids.
"We're a mess. We had set everything up for a certain scenario, but we're so busted up, we now have four significant contributors unavailable to us," Krause said. "But guys stepped in and did some good things today."
Carmichaels took a 1-0 lead in the first when Spishock walked, advanced to second on Alex Gesk's sacrifice bunt, took third on a passed ball and scored on Lapkowicz's sacrifice fly.
Masontown pulled even against Copperheads starting pitcher Jordan Davis in the second. Nick Groover walked, went to second on an errant pick-off throw, took third on Reed Long's ground out and scored on Bergman's single to center.
Carmichaels went back ahead, 2-1, in the bottom of the frame. Fordyce was hit by a pitch, went to second on Joe Pacconi's single to right and scored when Spishock sliced a double down the left-field line.
Masontown tied it again in the third when Palmer ripped a double to left, advanced to third on Zimcosky's deep fly out and scored on Uhazie's ground out against Lapkowicz.
Davis allowed two runs on three hits with one walk and no strikeouts in 2.1 innings. Lapkowicz, who took the loss, followed with four innings of work, surrendering two earned runs on three hits with one walk and six strikeouts.
"I can't say enough about Lapkowicz," Krause said. "We used him for 3 2/3 innings Thursday because we weren't sure he was going to be here today. He has a family situation going on right now so his status is kind of up in the air each game for the time being."
Masontown took advantage of a couple Carmichaels miscues to grab its first lead, 3-2, in the fifth. Bergman walked, went to second on errant pick-off throw then scored on a throwing error as he stole third base.
The Copperheads surged back in front, 4-3, in the bottom of the inning when Gasti smacked a double and Kelly blasted a home run to left.
Masontown pulled even for a third time in the sixth. Uhazie singled, took second on a wild pitch, went to third on Groover's infield hit and scored on Colby Simmons' sacrifice fly to make it 4-4.
That set the stage for the riveting seventh inning.
Palmer commended Uhazie's effort on the mound.
"That boy never lets up," Palmer said. "He goes at it from start to finish. He's still undefeated. He did get some help with the defense and the bats today."
Krause also lauded Uhazie, who gave up four earned runs on seven hits with four walks, two hit batters and eight strikeouts.
"Uhazie is one of the smartest players in the league," Krause said. "You just watch how he catches, how he pitches, he just really understands the game. I give him a lot of credit because we fought him pretty hard today. He had to throw a ton of pitches."
Krause admired the way both teams battled.
"This is what County League baseball is supposed to be, two good teams going head-to-head, toe-to-toe," Krause said. "You had two teams play really hard on a hot night. It was fun to be part of it.
"It just didn't end the way we wanted it to end."