Needing just one win in its remaining two games to get into the District 11 playoffs, Tamaqua entered Tuesday afternoon's nonleague contest against Tri-Valley in control of its own destiny.
However, it was the Blue Raiders' total lack of "control" on the mound and in the field which now sets up a "do-or-die" game this Thursday night at Pottsville (7:00 p.m.).
Tamaqua (9-10, 5-6) allowed four Tri-Valley runs before recording its first out, issued a combined 12 walks and committed four costly errors, as the visiting Bulldogs took home a 10-5 victory.
"We came out flat," stated Tamaqua skipper Jeff Reading. "We walked a couple of people, we made a few errors and they capitalized off our mistakes. Tri-Valley is a good team and when you spot them six runs in the first two innings, that's an awfully tough hole to climb out of."
After a single and two walks loaded the bases to start off the game, Dalton Miller roped a two-run double to center field to score Sam Spickler and Tad Ney. A Tamaqua throwing error on the play then allowed Taylor Troutman to score for a 3-0 lead.
The Bulldogs tacked on their fourth run when Miller came home on Tyler Strohecker's single to center, as Tri-Valley sent 10 batters to the plate in the opening frame, while stranding the bases loaded.
A Ney double opened the second inning for the Bulldogs, and he came home on Tamaqua's third error of the game. A Kyle Bair walk with the bases loaded plated Tri-Valley's sixth run of the contest before a Cale Bruso groundout left the bases loaded for the second straight inning.
"We didn't throw strikes, we put runners on base and we struggled early to make the plays," added a disappointed Reading.
Tri-Valley upped its lead to 8-0 in the top of the fourth when a Spickler single to left field scored Devin Masser and Bair.
Bulldogs pitcher Shane Wert retired the first 10 batters he faced before back-to-back walks and consecutive hit batters resulted in Tamaqua's first run of the game. A Mike Toth RBI-single cut the deficit to 8-2, but with the bases loaded, Tamaqua grounded into a 4-5-3 double-play to end the inning.
Tanner Troutman then led off the fifth inning with a solo home run to left-center, while Wert came home on Tamaqua's second bases-loaded walk of the game to extend the Bulldogs' lead to 10-2.
The Raiders closed out the scoring with three runs in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run Ryan Palsgrove triple and an RBI-double by Mike Streisel, but the damage had already been done.
Tyler Strohecker had three hits to lead Tri-Valley (14-5, 8-4), while Dalton Miller tacked on three RBI. Pitcher Shane Werth struck out nine batters in the complete-game win and the Bulldogs left 12 men on base.
The loss marks the sixth time in the last seven games that the Raiders have yielded more than nine runs in a contest and they must now travel to Pottsville to face a Crimson Tide team that shut them out (4-0) in their earlier season meeting.
To complicate matters, Raiders ace Mike Streisel will not be able to pitch after throwing seven innings in Monday night's game against Pine Grove. Ryan Palsgrove will get the starting nod for the Blue Raiders in the all-important regular season finale.
"We get a day off tomorrow to practice and talk about some things, and we just need to stay positive and focus on Pottsville," concluded Reading. "It's now a one-game season for us where we either continue playing or hand in the uniforms."
Tri-Valley 420 220 0 - 10 10 1
Tamaqua 000 230 0 - 5 5 4
Wert and Bair; Reinhardt, Rottet (2), Hosler (5) and Roberts. W - Wert. L - Reinhardt. HR: Tri-Valley - Troutman (5th, none on).