By Brian Deakyne
WALL — For seemingly every game, Cory Hawes has took the mound for the Jersey Shore Bucks.
He’s had his highs, and his lows, — as have the Bucks — and on Thursday night, the side-arming left-handed pitcher had a chance to put it all together, and salvage a season that at one point, seemed to be headed for a glorious ending.
Hawes brought that glory to the Bucks, momentarily, throwing an impressive five-inning gem in their 7-3 win over the Jersey Shore Marlins, cementing their place into the 2012 Jersey Shore Baseball League playoffs as the sixth-seed.
The Bucks and Marlins finished the regular season tied for the final playoff spot, and were moved to a one-game playoff for the sixth seed.
In his five innings of work, Hawes allowed one run on five hits, struck out five batters, walked five and hit one batter.
Still, when the going got tough, the former Georgia Southwestern pitcher knew what to throw.
“My slider was actually working today and I was able to throw it for a strike,” Hawes said. “It was on tonight and that was my problem the last few games.”
The Bucks jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning, when Keith Weinkofsky drove in C.J. Pratt with an RBI single to center field, and Weinkofsky later scored on a throwing error, giving the Bucks an early cushion.
Hawes biggest trouble came in the bottom of the third inning, with the bases loaded with one out. Three walks and a hits batsmen led to a run scoring on a sacrifice fly, but further damage was evaded as Hawes got a big strikeout to end the inning and keep the Bucks on top with a 2-1 lead.
“It was huge. I get a little rattled sometimes and work a little too quick. Other than that, I settled down and got out of it,” Hawes said.
Joe Henderson belted an RBI triple in the top of the fourth inning, driving home Casey Whelan from first with two outs to extend their lead to 3-1. The runs kept coming in the top of the fifth. Dan Parra ripped a leadoff double to left-center field and later scored on an RBI double from Brandon Pollina, pushing their lead to 4-1.
“We came out firing on all cylinders. Cory threw a hell of a game and we added a couple almost every inning,” Bucks manager Andrew Roth said. “It was nice to see.”
The Bucks loaded the bases in the top of the seventh with no outs to add to their offensive explosion. Parra scored when Joe Panchak drew a bases-loaded walk, and Evan Smith drove in a run when he cranked a double down the right field line.
Panchak then scored on a wild pitch while Whelan was at the plate.
Nate Roe pitched the final two innings for the Bucks, with his only blemish coming in the bottom of the seventh when he allowed a two-run home run to center field off the bat of Adam Vogel. Roe had three strikeouts over his two innings, three hits and one walk in finishing the victory.
“I told the guys before the game that we’ve had ups-and-downs, but we’ve had a lot of fun and we weren’t ready for it to end,” Roth said.
“It feels pretty good, my body is getting tired, though,” Hawes joked.
With the win, the Bucks solidify themselves as the sixth and final playoff spot, and will begin a three-game series with the third-seeded Colts Neck Braves on Tuesday. Tentatively, the teams are slated for a double-header on Sunday to play the first two games of that three-game series.