SMITHFIELD -- When a baseball team's back is against the wall and the pressure is on, that's known as gut-check time.
Farmington found itself in such a moment not once but multiple times in the latter stages of Wednesday evening's Fayette American Legion playoff game against Smithfield-Fairchance.
Manager Rodney Frazee's squad showed its mettle in each of those situations and the result with a courageous 3-2, 10-inning victory in a playoff elimination game at Smithfield Ball Field.
Christian Burchick had two hits and scored twice, including the go-ahead run on Nolan Sennett's sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th, and reliever John Harim stranded the potential winning run at third base three times and the tying run once in earning the win to keep Farmington alive in postseason.
"It was an amazing game," said Farmington coach John Harim, speaking for Frazee's squad, which will now be off until at least Friday.
"Smithfield-Fairchance is a great team. Their lineup, top to bottom, is strong. I'm very proud of our players, but their players deserve credit, too."
Overshadowed in the defeat for S-F was a dominating performance by Willie Palmer, who relieved starter Colby Uphold in the first and fired 7 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing only one hit and two walks while striking out 14. Palmer was forced from the mound after hitting the pitch count in the eighth inning with Josh Szerensci taking over.
Palmer just shook his head at the frustrating loss.
"It's terrible but that's just the game of baseball," Palmer said. "It's sad the season's over with."
Farmington struck for two runs in the first. Burchick led off with a single, stole second and took third when Wyatt Rishel reached on an error. Harim blasted an RBI double off the left-field fence, prompting S-F manager Steve Strange to call on Palmer.
"The original plan was to bring him in in the fifth, keep him under 60 (pitches) and then start him, if we won, on Saturday," Strange said of using Palmer. "But we ran into some trouble in the first so we had to pull the plug on that plan."
Palmer got a strikeout before Jeremy Saliba's sacrifice fly scored Rishel, who turned in a gutsy performance playing on an injured leg, to make it 2-0. Palmer walked the next two batters but ended the inning with a strikeout which started a string of 14 consecutive batters he retired.
Sennett's infield hit in the sixth snapped the streak but Palmer got stronger as he went along, mowing down the final seven batters he faced which included five strikeouts in a row.
"That's what he's done all year for us," Strange said.
Farmington starter Alan VanSickle also pitched well, allowing two runs -- one earned -- on seven hits with no walks and five strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.
Smithfield-Fairchance tied the game in the fourth. Consecutive one-out singles by Chandler Goodwin, Szerensci and Noah Mildren produced one run. After Jason Thoreson reached on an error, Angelo Doyle hit into a force out at second to bring in the tying run.
The scored stayed that way until the 10th but not without plenty of drama.
In the bottom of the sixth, Thoreson drilled a two-out drive into deep center field that Burchick made a spectacular diving catch on.
"Christian is a strong ballplayer and he loves to play," coach Harim said.
In the bottom of the seventh Doyle hit a lead-off single, took second on a wild pitch and went to third on pinch-hitter Trey Coville's ground out. VanSickle got a strikeout as he hit the pitch count and Frazee called on Harim, who intentionally walked the next two batters before inducing Goodwin to hit into a force out with shortstop Sennett flipping to second baseman Rishel.
S-F mounted another threat in the eighth when Szerensci, who had three hits, led off with a double to right. Harim got a strikeout but Thoreson reached on an error with Szerensci holding at second. Doyle singled to right but the ball was hit too hard for Szerensci to try to score, and Harim got a strikeout and a ground out to brother and third baseman James Harim to end the inning.
Goodwin smashed a two-out triple to deep right in the ninth but Harim again hung tough and got Szerensci to fly out to Burchick.
"He doesn't have great velocity but he puts good spin on the ball to keep batters off balance," coach Harim said of his son.
Farmington finally pushed across a run in the 10th. Jeff King and Burchick both singled and Rishel was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Strange re-inserted Uphold on the mound in place of Szerensci, who took the loss. After a force out at home, Sennett followed with a fly ball to medium center that forced Doyle to make a running grab and by time he squared up and threw the ball home it was too late to get Burchick.
"It was just a routine fly but I just went for it," Burchick said. "I felt like we had it won as soon as I got across the plate."
Harim had one more threat to survive in the bottom of the inning. Mildren led off with a single, his third hit, and Thoreson's bloop fly fell between Sennett and Burchick, but the latter alertly threw the ball to Rishel at second for a force out as Mildren had to hold up to see if the ball would be caught. Thoreson stole second and went to third on Doyle's ground out before Harim ended the marathon game with a strikeout.
"We just couldn't get it done when we had the chances," Strange said. "That's been a problem for us consistently this year, timely hitting."
"The boys made the plays when they had to," coach Harim said. "Their heads were in the game the entire time and that was very important for us. They stayed with it.
"This was just a great game all the way around."