It might have taken a while to start, but the payoff was well worth the wait.
After two consecutive rainouts, the Keystone Senior Babe Ruth semifinal between Franklin Township and East Stroudsburg finally got underway Wednesday night. Despite the repeated delays, the teams delivered a classic.
Franklin capitalized on a balk call in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings, and Ryan Malarkey did the rest with the game-winning hit in the eighth to send the Shockers into the championship series with a 3-2 victory.
"I just had to step up, be the next man up and do what was best for the team," said Malarkey, who finished 2-for-4 with a double. "And that was to get the man (Zach Kamowski) in, win the game and move on to the next round."
Advancing never seemed like a sure thing for the Shockers, who were down to their last out in the bottom of the seventh when third basemen Brady Niehoff hustled to reach on an error at first, and later moved to second on a passed ball.
James Farano came up next and roped a single to move Niehoff to third for what was the Shockers first sustained rally of the game against East Stroudsburg starter Chris Ramdass, who allowed three hits and one run over his first six innings of work.
"That was a great at-bat by James Farano," said Franklin coach Donnie Rehrig. "He was down in the count, battled back and got the pitch he wanted.
"And that's what I preach to them get your pitch and do what you have to do with it. You've got to attack where the ball's pitched and just do your job and get the next guy up."
Looking to put pressure on the Mustangs' defense, Farano took his lead off of first, which prompted a throw over by Ramdass and a balk call by the umpire, allowing Niehoff to score and tie the game 2-2.
Anthony Rossino, who went the distance and earned the win, pitched a strong eighth inning, picking up two strikeouts while working around a walk to give his team the chance to win it in the eighth.
"I can't say enough about Anthony Rossino," said Rehrig. "He battled and worked out of jams throughout the game. That was really impressive, considering it was the first time he's pitched in about a week."
While Rossino stayed in for the Shockers to pitch the final frame, Thomas Aruta came in for Ramdass in the bottom of the eighth for the Mustangs.
Kamowski, who also scored in the bottom of the second, reached on a leadoff walk and later moved to second on Thatcher David's groundout before Malarkey brought him home for the game-winning run.
While Franklin players were giving Malarkey a Gatorade bath in their postgame celebration, the mood was understandably subdued on the other side of the field.
"My boys played hard and subdued on the other side of the field.
"My boys played hard and I'm very happy with that," said East Stroudsburg coach Tony Croce. "We just hate to have the game end that way."
For Rehrig and the Shockers, the focus will now shift to the final and a familiar opponent in Towamensing, which was the top seed in the East Division.
"We had a great season last year but we came up short in the end. And when I talked to the guys tonight, I told them this was our game, we just had to want it more than the other team," said Rehrig. "They were in it the entire time and they battled until the end. As a coach, you can't ask for more than that.
"Now, we'll play a tough Towamensing team that's coming off of two days rest and a big win over Panther Valley. But we'll see what happens. Let the chips fall where they may and winner-take-all."
E. Stroudsburg 100 010 00 - 2 6 4
Franklin Twp. 010 000 11 - 3 5 4
Ramdass, Aruta (8) and Williams; Rossino and Th. David. W - Rossino. L - Aruta.