Chucks picking up the pace, down Bison
PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsy and Clearfield's pitching staffs combined for 17 walks, and Punxsy head coach Mike Dickey said after the game, "It wasn't a pretty one." But the Chucks did what they needed to in order to pick up a 12-6 victory over the Bison's baseball team Monday evening in Punxsutawney.
Punxsy's offense was productive, and the Chucks took advantage of a few well-timed errors by the Bison, including two attempted pickoff plays which led to Punxsy runs, to put up their 12 runs.
"We had a lot of help," Dickey said. "But with 13 hits, that's nothing to complain about. We'll take 13 any day. I thought we battled well with the bats, and the base running was outstanding. We read the pitches in the dirt really well and executed what we had called."
While Punxsy had seven stolen bases in the game and advanced the extra 90 feet on a number of other wild pitches and passed balls, Dickey said it was the mental aspect that pleased him the most.
"Base running is a big part of the game," he said. "You also don't want to run yourself into unnecessary outs. We cleaned up the signs a bit, and we're just being more instinctual about knowing when we should move up."
Punxsy senior Luke Jano- cha — a big lefty — started the game and threw two scoreless innings, although he struggled with his control a bit, walking three.
Janocha started the game off by striking out Clearfield's leadoff hitter, Cole Kephart, and after a groundout and a walk, he earned his second strikeout of the inning by getting Coleman Kubala swinging.
Clearfield's starting pitcher, Kurtis Krise, started the game off for his squad the same way Janocha did — with a strikeout — but he walked four of the next six batters and allowed one to reach on a single, giving Punxsy an early 2-0 lead.
Ryan Sloniger started things for the Chucks with a walk, and Ty Zimmerman singled over the second baseman's head to put two on.
Jamie Bush walked to load the bases, and Punxsy's first two runs came across the plate when Krise's pickoff attempt of Bush skipped to the fence.
Sloniger scored easily from third, and Zimmerman scampered all the way home from second.
After two walks loaded the bases again, Krise was able to get out of trouble with a flyout to left stopping the bleeding.
Janocha allowed a leadoff single to Ronny Ogden and loaded the bases with no outs on a pair of walks in the top of the second. But he battled back by striking out the next two hitters and forcing Kephart to pop out to second baseman Michael Klingensmith to end the threat and preserve Punxsy's lead.
Punxsy plated another pair — the same pair that scored in the first — in the second inning. Krise looked as if he had regained control, picking up outs against the first two hitters, but Punxsy's next five hitters reached base.
Sloniger started the wheels turning with another walk and Zimmerman singled home courtesy runner Dakota Thomas after he stole second.
Clean up hitter Garrett Zimmerman kept things rolling with an RBI single after Ty Zimmerman stole second, and Bush and Janocha eached walked to load the bases and force Krise out of the game.
Relief pitcher Johnny Janocko retired the first hitter he faced to end the threat.
Punxsy turned to its first relief pitcher in the third inning when Dane Baker took the mound, and the meat of Clearfield's lineup managed three runs off Baker in the third and three more in the fourth.
The Chucks put up their most productive inning in the bottom of the third, though, with four runs to maintain their lead.
Klingensmith started the bottom-of-the-third rally with a walk, and Cory Geer followed suit.
Baker helped his own cause with a single to drive in one, and Geer scored on a groundout by Sloniger for Punxsy's second run of the frame.
Ty Zimmerman was hit by a pitch to reach base, and Garrett Zimmerman followed by driving in Baker on a sacrifice fly.
Bush finished the four-run inning for the Chucks with an RBI single to left.
Punxsy's lead was cut to two after Clearfield's three-run fourth, but the Chucks scored two insurance runs after a leadoff single by Alex Bevak led to an RBI double by Geer.
Geer then scored on an RBI double by Sloniger to push Punxsy's lead to 10-6.
Both teams went scoreless in the fifth, and Sloniger entered the game to pitch in the sixth, keeping the Bison off the board again.
Punxsy added its final two insurance runs in the sixth.
Baker reached base on a fielder's choice, stole second, moved to third on a Sloniger single and scored on another errant pickoff attempt.
Sloniger later scored on an RBI single by Garrett Zimmerman to cap Punxsy's scoring.
Sloniger allowed one hit in the final frame but again held the Bison scoreless to seal the deal for Punxsy.
Despite the win, Dickey said he looks to continue to improve in a few areas entering Wednesday's District-IX game against the Dutchmen of St. Marys.
"It was just one of those days where we couldn't find the plate," he said. "And defensively, we did just enough. We had some errors, which you're going to have, but I wouldn't call it a good showing defensively. We did just enough. It comes down to catching it and throwing it, and we're always working on the fundamentals and the footwork."
Dickey said with one day of practice between the games, he hopes to see the Chucks continue to polish their early-season game.
"Wednesday is another big District IX game," he said. "We're hoping we're a little sharper in all areas. We're happy to get this one, but we know we can play better. We'll put it behind us, and tomorrow, we'll get ready for St. Marys. We will hope to put together all phases of the game."