After slow start, JV Chucks' bats come to life

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Despite not yet recording a base hit and trailing 3-2 after two innings Thursday afternoon in Punxsutawney, the Punxsy JV baseball team scored 13 runs on 12 hits over the course of the final three innings to win a 15-3, five-inning contest over Marion Center via the 10-run rule.

"Our bats started out a little bit sluggish, and it seemed like we needed a wake up call," Punxsy head coach Rodney Thompson said after the game. "When you have some pitching that's a little bit slower, you have to stay back on it. But hitting is still hitting."

Punxsy's first two hitters actually reached base in the home half of the first after Chucks' starting pitcher Hunter Hickok kept the Stingers off the board in the first.

Leadoff hitter Clayton Dale reached safely on a ball down the third baseline that caused the third baseman to misplay it and advanced to second as the ball bounded into left field.

Matt Burkett came to the plate next and reached via a walk, and with Hickok at the plate and Burkett in motion, the Chucks executed a hit-and-run play. Hickok put the ball in play on a grounder to the shortstop, who was forced to retire him at first base driving in Dale. On the throw to first, Burkett never stopped running and ended up on third base.

Cleanup hitter Christian Falgout drove in Punxsy's second run with another RBI groundout, this time to third.

Leading 2-0, the Chucks took the field for the second inning, which ended up being the only frame in which the Stingers managed to plate any runs.

Hickok started the inning by striking out two of the first three Marion Center hitters he faced, with Aaron Connor's single sandwiched between the Ks. With two outs, though, the Stingers put together a rally to pick up three runs.

Jake Buthell started it with a walk to put runners on first and second, and leadoff hitter Andy Fox drove a ball to the base of the fence in left-center field just past the outstretched glove of diving left fielder Zach Bevak. Connor and Buthell both came the whole way around to score on the double.

Fox advanced to third base on a wild pitch, and after another walk, No. 3 hitter Hunter Stiteler gave Marion Center its first lead with an RBI seeing-eye single just past Brandon Blose at second base.

Hickok retired what would end up being his final hitter faced in the next at-bat when he forced Justin Shank to fly out to left to end the inning and stop the bleeding.

The Chucks continued to make contact in the bottom of the second, putting all three balls in play, but each hit — by Dakota Byers, Ruben Taylor and Tyler Young — were directly at a Stingers' player and the Chucks were retired in order.

Relief pitcher Matt Burkett entered the game to start the third for the Chucks, and struck out the side in order to give Punxsy valuable momentum coming back to the plate.

In the bottom of the third, the Chucks rolled with the tide and scored four runs to take the lead for good.

Dale started things off with a single and then stole two bases to reach third with no outs and Burkett at the plate.

Burkett walked putting runners on the corner for Hickok, who drove a deep fly ball to right field for a sacrifice fly and his second RBI of the day.

Christian Falgout followed with an infield single, and Blose drove in a run with a single past the third baseman.

Blose and Falgout advanced to second and third, respectively, when Fox committed a balk, and Dakotah Byers came through in the clutch with a two-RBI single to put the Chucks ahead 6-2.

All four of the Chucks runs came with two outs in the inning.

Burkett made quick work of the Stingers again in the fourth, including a nice play on a one-hop, sharply-hit line drive up the middle.

And in the fourth inning, with the help of four Marion Center errors and behind seven hits, Punxsy put up a seven-spot to give itself some insurance.

The seven-run inning began with a single by Young, and Bevak followed with a chopper in front of the mound. It appeared as if Fox would retire Bevak, but his throw was just beyond the reach of first baseman Mike Badzik. With the throw skipping to the fence in right field, Young scored, and Bevak ended up all the way at third.

Dale was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners for Burkett, who delivered to help his own cause with an RBI single to left.

The ball skipped past the left fielder, and Dale came around to score from first, as well, to put Punxsy up 9-3.

Hickok came through with an RBI single — his third consecutive at-bat with an RBI — and advanced to second base on another misplayed ball in left field.

Falgout hustled out a grounder to second base and reached safely as the second baseman bobbled the ball for the Stingers' fourth error of the frame.

"When you put the ball in play, good things happen," Thompson said. "They had some trouble defensively, but that only happens if you put the bat on the ball."

Punxsy capitalized on one more mistake by the Stingers, as Hickok scored on a wild pitch to give the Chucks an 11-3 edge. Byers followed with an RBI single to plate Falgout for his third RBI of the day.

Byers wasted no time scoring on a sharp line drive right down the right field line by Taylor, giving Punxsy a 13-3 lead.

Burkett struck out Badzik to begin the fifth on the right foot, and Stiteler earned his second hit of the day on an infield single for the only blemish on Burkett's record.

Burkett battled back to force a groundout and a flyout, which should have ended the game with Punxsy ahead 13-3 after four-and-a-half innings.

A scoring discrepancy allowed the game to go one more half inning, though, as it was thought the Chucks were up just nine.

Punxsy wasted no time making sure it secured the win regardless, though, as pinch-hitter Ben Snyder reached on a single down the third base line.

Burkett reached base for the fourth time with a double to left-center, advancing Snyder to third.

With one out, Falgout ended it for Punxsy with a two-RBI single up the middle to put the Chucks ahead 15-3.

Burkett and Byers led the Chucks in the hits department with two apiece.

Burkett went 2-for-2 with two walks, an RBI, a stolen base and four runs, while Byers was 2-for-3 with three RBIs.

Falgout and Hickock each had three RBIs, as well, to share the lead in that category for Punxsy.

Snyder also batted 1.000 for the day, reaching in his only at-bat.

Burkett picked up the win, pitching three scoreless, one-hit innings, striking out five.

"Matt's solid for us," Thompson said. "He's just one of those guys that's tough to beat when he gets in the zone and starts hitting his spots. He's just automatic."

With the victory, Punxsy improved to 11-1 on the season, a record Thompson said his players have worked hard for.

"We're 11-1, and these guys are rolling," he said. "Despite coming out flat in this one, we turned it on, and we ended up being fine."