ROSTRAVER TWP. -- Jake Rathway singled in Jared Hartman in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Belle Vernon a 2-1 walk-off win over Farmington in a hard-fought Fayette American Legion playoff elimination game on Saturday evening.
Max Gauden topped Jeremy Saliba in a pitchers' duel at John DiVirgilio Sports Complex as Belle Vernon (13-7) advanced to a second playoff meeting with Connellsville in the losers' bracket finale which was played Sunday.
Hartman slapped a hustling double down the right-field line leading off the seventh and took third on Andrew Eckels' ground out. Farmington manager Rodney Frazee opted to intentionally walk Nick Stanger and, after Stanger stole second, he also put Chris McCullough on base to set up a force out at home or double play.
Rathway spoiled that strategy by smacking a ground ball back up the middle and his teammates swarmed over him in celebration after he rounded first base.
"It's awesome," Rathway said of delivering the winning hit. "I was just looking for the first good pitch I could drive. I saw the infield was in so I just wanted to hit something hard and get it through the infield or in the air to the outfield."
"Jake did a great job," said assistant coach Jake Hartman, speaking on behalf of his father, manager Tom Hartman. "He hit the ball hard all day so I knew he would put it in play."
Saliba took the loss despite allowing just one earned run and seven hits.
"Jeremy did an excellent job," Frazee said. "He even gave us the ground ball we needed at the end there but it just eluded the gloves. I don't know if we could've turned a double play but who can tell?"
"Jeremy has been our ace and has thrown tremendously this year," added Farmington assistant coach John Harim.
Gauden, who was celebrating his birthday, was just a little bit better.
"Yeah, it was a pretty good birthday present," said Gauden, who gave up one run on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts.
"That's probably the best I've pitched this year. My arm felt good the whole game. I only had a couple strikeouts so I wasn't overpowering anyone. I just tried to hit my spots and we made a lot of good plays."
"Max was good for the high school in the spring and then he carried that over with us," Jake Hartman said. "We knew Max was going to come out here and do well for us today. His curveball was working today, his fastball was good and our defense picked up and played really well.
"It was a well-played game by everybody. Farmington put up a hell of a fight which they've done all year."
Farmington (8-11) scored its only run in the fourth inning to take a 1-0 lead. Gauden got the first two outs but then hit John Harim (son of the coach) with a pitch. Saliba followed with a single to right and Austin Rates singled to center to bring in Harim.
Belle Vernon tied it in the bottom of the inning when Gauden reached on a two-base outfield error, advanced to third on David Szerscen's ground out and scored on Hartman's single to left.
Rathway and Hartman each had two hits, as did Farmington's Wyatt Rishel.
Farmington threatened in the sixth when Nolan Sennett and Harim led off with singles, but Gauden got a pop out, force out and ground out to keep the score at 1-1.
"The boys put together a heck of a game," said coach Harim. "I thought we hit the ball hard but didn't get much to show for it.
"Hat's off the Belle Vernon, though, they've got a great team."