Chucks tentative at plate in loss to S.C.
PUNXSUTAWNEY — Despite a pair of hits in the first three batters of the game, the Punxsy baseball team's offense took a tentative approach at the plate and managed only two more hits for the remainder of the game against State College starter Michael Finlan, as the Little Lions went on to a 5-0 victory Friday in Punxsutawney.
"We just weren't attacking enough," Punxsy head coach Mike Dickey said. "We weren't aggressive, and we couldn't put runs on the board. And it showed. We're not stepping up to the plate with confidence, and we need to start doing that."
Finlan's line was an impressive one, with a complete-game, four-hit shutout. He walked three and struck out five.
His counterpart, Punxsy starter Jamie Bush, didn't have a bad game himself, allowing five runs — only two of which were earned — on seven hits, walking two and striking out four.
State College's hits just seemed to come at the right time.
"Jamie was mixing his pitches and hitting his spots," Dickey said. "He may not have been as sharp as we've seen him at times, but he was steady, and he kept us in the game. He deserved a better fate than that. We didn't support him offensively or defensively."
Punxsy actually threatened first, coming out firing against Finlan.
Ryan Sloniger singled past a diving second baseman to nab Punxsy's first hit and advanced to second on one of just two errors by State College on the afternoon.
Ty Zimmerman followed with a sharp single right over top of third base, and Sloniger's courtesy runner, Dakota Thomas, was waved home.
A perfect throw by Darien Herncane left Thomas out to dry, though, and the game remained scoreless.
"We hit the ball hard the first couple innings," Dickey said. "They were just hit right at people. And we just couldn't get a hit to fall in. Then, we had some bad approaches at the plate and got ourselves in a hole and got defensive. It just wasn't a good day at the plate."
The Little Lions' first run came in the top of the fourth, and it was one of the three unearned runs Bush allowed.
Herncane led off the inning with a single to left field — snapping a three-inning hitless streak by Bush after Saige Jenco led off the game with a single – and advanced to second when the ball was bobbled in left.
He failed to tag on a line drive directly to Punxsy right fielder Taylor Phillips, but ended up advancing to third on a wild pitch.
Herncane then scored on a groundout to shortstop Ty Zimmerman by Jared Dailey to give State College the 1-0 edge.
In the top of the fifth, State College threatened again with Bush issuing his first two walks back-to-back with one out.
Bush battled back, though, striking out Jenco and forcing Dalton Brown to fly out to short to end the inning.
Punxsy seemed to ride the momentum into the bottom half of the frame, as Cory Geer led off the inning with a sharply-struck line drive double off the fence in left-center.
No. 8 hitter Michael Klingensmith battled back from down no balls and two strikes to earn a walk, and when No. 9 hitter Dane Baker squared to bunt but pulled back, Geer stole third base, as nobody was left to cover the bag for State College.
Geer's stolen base put runners on the corners with no outs, and it seemed as if Punxsy was in perfect position to execute a double steal — or at least move Klingensmith into scoring position if the Little Lions conceded the stolen base.
Unfortunately for the Chucks, though, Klingensmith was picked off by Finlan, and after Baker walked, Finlan worked his way out of the jam by striking out pinch hitter Alex Bevak and No. 2 hitter Ryan Sloniger.
State College scored a pair of unearned runs in the top of the sixth to give it some breathing room on a two-RBI double by No. 7 hitter Alex Singer.
Then, the Little Lions added insult to injury with two more in the top of the seventh — the only two earned on the day.
Tanner Witter led off the top of the seventh with a triple to the corner in right field and scored on a Jenco sacrifice fly, and Herncane put the icing on the cake with a deep line drive into the creek over the tall fence in center field.
In the bottom half of the frame, Punxsy received a bit of help from State College's defense when Geer reached for the third time on the day — this time via an error by the third baseman — with one out.
The Little Lions' defense bounced right back, though, to maintain the shutout on a nicely-turned, 3-6 double play by the first baseman to end the game.
The loss was Punxsy's second of the week after a tough 11-1 loss to DuBois Wednesday, and the Chucks look to put both behind them and rebound this afternoon when they host Smethport.
Dickey said the one change Punxsy absolutely needs to make could make a huge difference today.
"We just need to come out and be aggressive with the bats," he said. "That's where it starts. There's really nothing else you can say. We just need to go up there with a better approach."