It wasn't the convincing kind of victory a manager would like to see against a weaker team with the playoffs fast approaching, but Westminster Elks manager Walt VonBussenius Sr. will take the 3-2 win over visiting Thurmont last night in Uniontown.
With the win, the Elks improved to 21-13 and maintained at least a share of second place in the South Penn League as the regular season closes this weekend. New Oxford, which played Littlestown last night, also came into last night's action with a 20-13 record.
Elks' catcher Jeff Bruchey's drilled a one-out single in the bottom of the seventh to score Doug Weeks for the game-winner. Bruchey went the other way with a Travis Keller's fastball and lined it in the right-center gap to break the 2-2 tie.
"Thurmont always plays us tough and they held our bats down tonight," VonBussenius said.
"We've been hitting the heck out of the ball and driving in runs like crazy and it all of a sudden died, but our guys didn't give up."
The Elks had to scratch for everything they could get against Keller, who went the distance yielding the three runs on five hits. vTC Twice, they rallied to get even with Thurmont (12-22) before winning the game in the seventh.
Westminster used three pitchers with Ron Bryson pitching two scoreless innings to get the win.
Thurmont got a run in the first when Skip Wartler ripped a double off Westminster starter Brad Beck that scored Eric Royer, who opened the game with a single.
The Elks would get that run back in the second when Eric Barnes hit a ground-rule double to score Dave Polischeck, who earlier walked.
Lyle Davidson's sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth off Elks reliever Chris Long gave Thurmont a 2-1 lead, but Bryan Kelbaugh quickly got the Elks even again with a home run to left center in the bottom of the inning.
The Elks then took advantage of two straight walks by Keller to start the seventh before Bruchey's heroics.
While the Elks are one of four teams within a half-game of one another in the race for second place, the three-time defending league champion Taneytown Cardinals again are the team to beat as the playoffs get set to start next week.
The Cards entered last night's game at Brushtown with a 25-8 record, having clinched the regular-season title along with the home field advantage in the playoffs.
The Cards are not having the kind of season they did a year ago when they went 35-4 and rattled off 23 straight wins to close out the season, but their pitching staff is the healthiest it's been all season and their past success makes them clear favorites to win a fourth straight crown.
"We haven't gotten the consistency we're accustomed to, but it's tough to say we're in a slump," said assistant coach and pitcher Bryan Harman. "We just haven't played up to our capabilities the last three weeks. Come playoff time, we'll be ready."
Before last night's games, Westminster and New Oxford were tied for second with a 20-13 mark; followed by Cashtown and Littlestown, both at 19-13.
Westminster closes out its season with a crucial doubleheader at home against Littlestown (19-13 at the start of the week) on Saturday.
And what about an all-Carroll SPL finals with Taneytown defending their crown against Westminster?
"I'd love to see it," VonBussenius said. "[Taneytown's] a class team and I'd like to get there and try it."