Chucks score 12 runs in first inning, pound Kittanning, 16-1

PUNXSUTAWNEY — After witnessing the Punxsy varsity baseball team's 12-run first inning during its 16-1 win in four innings over Kittanning Tuesday, it was easy to reminisce about a similarly successful first inning that came from the 2008 Punxsutawney Junior Legion team, which featured a number of this year's varsity Chucks.

Saturday, July 26, 2008, Fezell Enterprises of Punxsutawney collected nine hits, reached base on eight walks and scored 18 runs on three Greensburg pitchers en route to a 22-4 five-inning victory during its first game of the Western Regional Tournament at Rich Kuntz Memorial Field in Punxsutawney.

Back in 2008, Tyler Skerkavich hit a two-run homer to right field that started the 18-run inning. At one point during that inning, 15-straight Punxsy batters reached base.

Tuesday, Punxsy had eight hits, received five walks and scored 12 times, with Skerkavich's grand slam over the right-field fence starting the momentous inning. Fourteen of the Chucks' first 15 batters reached base during the first inning Tuesday.

Zak Dickey singled, before attempted sacrifice bunts by Devan Neal and Jordan Mesoraco turned into infield singles. That's when Skerkavich stepped to the plate and belted one over the fence.

"It was a eerily similar," Punxsy manager Mike Dickey said, comparing the 2008 game to Tuesday. "We're trying to give up an out to move a runner, and we get two bunt base hits. Then we get the big blast, and that kind of started the ball rolling."

Taylor Neal was solid on the mound for the Chucks, throwing three innings of three-hit ball. After Monday's win, Dickey pegged Luke Janocha as Tuesday's starter, but Taylor Neal stepped in on short notice because Janocha was sick. Neal received the news that he would start an hour prior to the game.

"Taylor did a heck of a job on short notice that he was going to start," Dickey said. "He's a competitor. He's a tough kid and wants the ball."

Punxsy totaled 14 hits, led by Skerkavich's 4-for-4 performance. Skerkavich, who had six RBIs and scored three times, recorded a hit during every inning, singling three times after his first-inning grand slam.

Sophomore Ty Zimmerman was 3-for-3 with a triple and four RBIs. He drove in a run with every hit.

Zak Dickey and Taylor Neal each had two hits and scored twice. Neal's RBI double down the third base line during the fourth inning ended the game due to the 15-run mercy rule.

Devan Neal singled, scored twice and drove in a run, Jordan Mesoraco singled and scored three times, and Dane Baker singled and scored.

Punxsy struck out looking just once after striking out looking four times Monday.

"I think that's going to be a decent baseball team," manager Dickey said about Kittanning. "Anything that we did wrong yesterday, we did right today."

The Chucks also drew seven walks.

"We worked a lot of counts," Dickey said. "A couple guys I can remember being 1-2 and 0-2, and they worked it all the way to a walk. Today, we seemed to have a plan, attacked the ball and the results were a lot better."

Kittanning starting pitcher Trevor Harmon lasted just one-third of an inning, allowing 11 runs (10 earned) on six hits and four walks. Sterling Henry pitched the final 3 1/3-innings, surrendering five runs on eight hits and three walks.

Zimmerman pitched the final inning for Punxsy, striking out two and walking one.

The Chucks (2-0) will now prepare for State College, a team that beat Punxsy 14-1 and 17-8 last season. Punxsy will host the Lions at noon Saturday.

"They're going to come to play, and we're going to have to bring our 'A' game. We know that," Dickey said. "I think we'll be ready."

Right-hander Joe Pisano is expected to start for the Chucks Saturday.