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10- & 11s stymied by polished DuBois squad in opener

July 5, 2012

Punxsy 10- and 11-year-old All-Star Logan Johnston follows through on a cut during Punxsy's 14-0 opening round loss to DuBois Thursday in Punxsutawney. Johnston's double in the fourth inning was one of just two Punxsy hits on the day. (Photo by Zak Lantz of The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — With the Little League All-Stars format having teams in age brackets nine- and 10-year olds, 10- and 11- and 11- and 12-year-olds, many of the same teams see each other from year to year.

That was the case Thursday night when Punxsy's 10- and 11-year-old baseball squad met DuBois' — the defending District X and Section I Champion from last year's nine- and 10-year-old tournament, and Punxsy knew exactly what it was in for.

Unfortunately for the home team, though, knowing the challenge ahead of it just wasn't enough to overcome the powerhouse, and Punxsy fell 14-0 in four innings.

"We knew going in what DuBois had," Punxsy head coach Eric Britton said after the game. "Their reputation and what they did last year spoke for itself. That's the same team that was District X champ and section champs. We knew what we had to do, and we knew we had to give it a good run. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way."

Part of the problem for Punxsy's players was the fact that they just couldn't catch up to DuBois' fire-baller's pitches. Matt Miller was the DuBois starter, and he brought the heat early and often, and his control kept Punxsy behind in the count often.

"They came out with their fastball pitcher, and we just didn't keep up with him," Britton said. "He threw strikes, and he was just able to throw it past us tonight."

DuBois also got some instant spark in its offensive attack with a pair of three-run home runs in the contest, including a one-out bomb to center by Gage Patton that broke a 0-0 tie in the second and a towering three-run shot to left off the bat of cleanup hitter Justin Mandulay in the fourth.

"They had a couple of big kids, and even the guys who weren't bit hit the ball well," Britton said. "From top to bottom, they were solid."

DuBois won the coin toss and elected to be the visiting team with hopes of putting pressure on Punxsy by scoring some runs before Punxsy even came to the plate.

But Punxsy starting pitcher Isaac Stouffer went to work and allowed just one hit to keep DuBois off the board in the first frame.

He got some help from third baseman Dylan Ishman with leadoff hitter Justin Miknis in the box, as Ishman backhanded a hot shot down the third-base line and threw on to Logan Johnston at first to retire Miknis.

Eric Schneider followed with a sharp single to center, but Stouffer rebounded by retiring Miller on a pop fly to shortstop Ethan Blose.

Stouffer helped himself to the third out, whiffing cleanup hitter Mandulay to retire the side and keep the shutout in tact.

Unfortunately for Punxsy, it just couldn't ride the momentum of the defensive stand, and Miller set the home team down in order on an unassisted groundout off Willie Hoover's bat, a 1-3 putout of Andrew Britton and a called third strike on the outside corner to Derek Huey.

With the first inning going scoreless, Dubois got a second shot at jumping on the home team, and this time it took advantage, putting up a three-spot.

Jordan Frano led off DuBois' half of the second with a single just over Blose's head at short, and after Huey made a great play in center to retire Jake LaMorte for the first out, Frano moved up to second when he beat the throw from Stouffer on a fielder's choice.

The fielder's choice allowed everyone to reach safely, and set up pinch hitter Patton's deep shot to center that gave DuBois a 3-0 edge.

Stouffer worked out of the tight spot after that, allowing one hit to Miknis but striking out Dylan McCluskey and forcing Schneider into a 6-3 groundout to minimize the damage.

Punxsy's first base- runner off Miller came in the home half of the second with Stouffer taking a leadoff walk.

Stouffer managed to shuffle on down to second on a wild pitch on a swinging strike three to Johnston, and he did the same — this time advancing to third — on a passed ball on a swinging third strike to Austin Ewing for the second out.

But Miller bore down and forced Ishman into a come-backer for the third out, keeping DuBois' three-run lead where it was.

DuBois added four runs to its tally in the top of the third to extend its lead to 7-0.

Stouffer started on the right foot by forcing Miller into a 4-3 groundout, but Stouffer walked the next two hitters in Mandalay and Frano, and with Mandalay advancing to third on a wild pitch and a passed ball, Frano was able to steal second uncontested to put a pair in scoring position for Brandon Walker.

Walker reached safely on a well-hit ball that proved too hot to handle at second base, allowing Mandalay to score, and after another outstanding play by Huey in center field put Punxsy one out away from escaping with minimal damage, another error allowed Frano to score and Patton to reach safely.

No. 9 hitter McCluskey followed with an RBI single to right field, and Miknis' second single of the day plated Patton to set the lead at seven.

Punxsy's first hit came in the top of the third — a one-out single over the second baseman's head for Chase Lorelli, but Miller forced a fielder's choice groundout and struck out Britton to retire the side, ending his day after three shutout innings.

In the top of the fourth, DuBois doubled its run production, plating seven on five hits and bringing 12 to the dish.

Schneider took one high and tight off his shoulder to lead off the inning, and Miller followed with an infield single that just seemed to have eyes, sneaking into that unplayable area between short and third.

That set up Mandalay's bomb — one that soared high into the air and cleared the fence by a good distance — and after the three-run shot DuBois' lead was 10-0.

At that point, Stouffer was relieved by Huey, who allowed back-to-back singles to Frano and LaMorte to start his tenure on the mound.

After that he settled in, though, striking out two of the next three hitters he faced with a hit batsman to load the bases sandwiched between.

Facing the top of the lineup, though, Huey couldn't retire the third DuBois hitter, and after Miknis plated Frano with a single, Schneider walked to score another run and push the lead to 12.

At that point, Ishman came on in relief, and the first batter he faced — Miller — drove a sharp single to center to score both Patton and Miknis and set the score where it would end up at 14-0.

McCluskey came on to relieve Miller in the fourth, and he allowed just one hit — a two-out rocket of a double the opposite way off the bat of Johnston.

He struck out the first two hitters he faced, and after Johnston's double, wasted no time retiring Ewing, who laced another down the third-base line but did so right into the glove of Schneider.

Punxsy will have one day to polish its game and fine tune the areas it wants to work on, as it will hit the road Saturday afternoon to take on St. Marys, which dropped its opening round game to Warren, 11-9 Thursday.

"We'll be ready for Saturday," coach Britton said. "We'll get another practice in, and we'll see where we go."

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