Chucks' strong pitching overpowers Dutch

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Strong pitching was a theme during Punxsy's baseball game against St. Marys Wednesday afternoon in Punxsutawney, with each pitching staff holding the other team to just six hits. But the deciding factor proved to be finding the strike zone, as Punxsy walked just one hitter while managing six free passes from Dutch starter Justin Beimel in a 5-2 victory.

Punxsy starter Jamie Bush pitched five innings, allowing just two runs, to earn the win for the Chucks, and reliever Cory Geer closed the deal with two no-hit innings.

"Our pitching was outstanding," Punxsy head coach Mike Dickey said. "I can't say enough about both guys. We had tremendous starting pitching. Cory came in and was in total command. Bushy was around the plate all day, and he battled. I can think of a particular at bat that went to a 3-2 count and then the kid fouled off four pitches. But Jamie won that battle. We tell our guys it's important to win the battle, and he won a lot of them today."

Bush was especially sharp in the opening frame, sitting down the Dutch hitters in order on a strikeout, a groundout and a fly out.

Punxsy's offense wasted no time getting to Beimel, who struggled a bit with his control in the bottom of the first.

Dane Baker started things for Punxsy with a single back up the middle, and after stealing second, he advanced to third on a groundout by Ryan Sloniger.

Ty Zimmerman walked, and Garrett Zimmerman followed with an RBI single to give Punxsy a 1-0 lead.

Bush followed Zimmerman's hit with a walk to load the bases, and senior Luke Janocha drove a pitch over the right fielder's head for a two-RBI double.

"We came out of the shoot hitting the ball hard, had a couple of walks in there, and Luke came through with a really big double to put us up three exactly when we needed it," Dickey said.

Beimel settled in from there, retiring the next two Punxsy hitters to retire the side.

St. Marys answered in the second inning with three consecutive singles putting together a rally.

Beimel helped his cause with a leadoff single, and Robert Watts followed suit with a single of his own.

Brandon Vollmer gave the Dutch their first run with the third single, plating Beimel.

Bush struck out the next hitter, but Watts scored during the next at bat, when Luke Schrieber grounded into a fielder's choice, with a bang-bang play at first, making the difference between a run and an inning-ending double play.

A baserunning mistake finished the inning for the Dutch, though, as Alexx Tyger attempted to lay down a bunt and missed. Schrieber was caught leaning too far toward second, and Sloniger threw down to Janocha, catching Schrieber in a pickle. Ty Zimmerman applied the tag, and the Chucks maintained a 3-2 lead — one they would hold until the sixth inning.

Bush and Beimel were both efficient over the next seven half-innings, with Beimel facing just one more than the minimum number of hitters and Bush seeing two above the minimum.

The only hit allowed by Beimel during that stretch was a third-inning double over the left fielder's head by Bush. Second was as far as his courtesy runner would go, though, as Beimel completed a three-strikeout inning in the next at bat.

Geer entered the game in the top of the sixth and wasted no time making his mark, as he struck out the first two hitters he faced — three-hitter Brandon Tyger and clean-up Beimel.

The only blemish on Geer's pitching record came via a walk issued to Watts, but Geer quickly caught Watts leaning and picked him off at first to retire the side and bring Punxsy to the plate.

Riding the momentum from the pickoff play, the Chucks went to work and added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth.

Garrett Zimmerman started the inning with his second single of the day, and Bush moved him to second with a grounder to Beimel.

Janocha was hit by a pitch, and Matt Burkett, who had entered the game when Geer came in to pitch, loaded the bases by taking a walk.

Michael Klingensmith drove in the first Punxsy run of the inning with a sacrifice fly to deep center field, and Janocha scored on a wild pitch by Beimel.

"Those runs in the sixth were huge," Dickey said. "It's always nice to add on and give yourself some breathing room, even when you don't end up needing it."

Dickey said he wasn't sure if the pickoff play by Geer had sparked the rally, but he said the Chucks do rally momentum from such plays at times.

"We kind of feed off little sparks here and there," he said. "And we seemed really juiced up after that. I'm not sure if it was coincidental or where we were in the lineup, but we definitely capitalized."

Geer was efficient again in St. Marys' half of the seventh, retiring the first three hitters he faced to wrap up the win for the Chucks.

Geer finished the outing with two innings pitched, allowing no runs on no hits, striking out two and walking one.

Bush picked up the win by pitching five innings, allowing two runs on six hits and striking out five.

Overall, Dickey was very pleased with his team's effort against the Dutch to earn a District IX win, and he even hopes the squad gained something more than a victory out of it: Cohesiveness.

"I'm really proud of the effort," he said. "I'm proud of every guy in here. It was a total team effort all the way around. I like the way we pulled together. Games like that can pull a team together, and I really feel like this one helped us grow closer. So, it was good to see that."