District X? Check. Section I? Check. Up next? States for LLSB
PUNXSUTAWNEY — Entering as the king seed and having dominated its competition in the first two games of the Section I tournament, Punxsy knew it had the edge entering Friday's championship game against Corry.
But Punxsy had its hands full, needing every run it scored to eke out a 7-6 victory over the visiting team and earn the Section 1 title and a berth to states next week.
"We had a couple of costly errors in the beginning of the game, but fortunately, our bats came to life, and we battled back and did well," Punxsy head coach Mike Ishman said after the thrilling victory. "I think the girls came in a little too confident and relaxed, but I'll tell you what, I take my hat off to Corry. A few hits fall in or don't, and that could have been a whole different ball game. I'm just so happy for these girls, though; for their community and for themselves, this is something to be proud of. It's just fantastic."
The state tournament will begin Tuesday in State College with Punxsy taking on Section II's representative in a 12:30 p.m. contest. Each team plays pool play against three other teams — with each team playing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — and the top two from each pool advance to the State's final four.
Coach Ishman said after the game that this trip would be a memory the members of his team hold on to forever.
"Just making it to states and realizing you're one of the top eight teams in Pennsylvania is a pleasure," he said. "These girls will enjoy it, and it's a life memory they'll never forget."
The game started off well for Punxsy before a five-run third inning by Corry turned the tide for a while.
Corry was the visiting squad, both in reality and on the scoreboard, and Punxsy starter Alli Ishman got off to a good start, setting down her opponents in order.
Ishman started the game by striking out Corry leadoff hitter Cassandra Lehner looking on a pitch that just caught the outside corner, and she followed by getting both Ryann Brundage and Haley Kurlowech to ground out to shortstop Alli Lunger.
Punxsy started hot in the sweltering heat, with its first three hitters reaching base, but Corry starter Kaylee McCray minimized the damage by holding Punxsy to just one run.
Tessa Winebark started the game for Punxsy with a double to left-center, and Morgan VanLeer reached safely on an E4 in and out of the second baseman's glove.
Ishman took a four-pitch walk to load the bases, but McCray forced an F4 by cleanup hitter Danielle Bowser to slow the home team's momentum.
Morgan Adamson plated Punxsy's first run with a groundout to first, giving Corry it's second out.
With two on and two out, McCray made a nice defensive play to get out of the inning on a chopper by Jordyn Powell.
Ishman went back to work in the top of the second, setting Corry down 1-2-3 to keep Punxsy's lead at one.
Cleanup hitter Monika McCray reached safely on an error before Ishman found the first out in an Autumn Heasley strikeout.
And after Lizzy Weingard grounded into a fielder's choice, catcher Winebark gunned down her special pinch runner Marissa Sorenson trying to steal second for the third out.
Punxsy added one to it's lead in the second with the help of a fielding blunder by Corry's defense.
McCray set the tone early with strikeouts of Kerstin Nestel and Mackenzie Atcheson, but a two-out triple to left-center by Lunger gave Punxsy a spark, and when McCray's throw across on the next ball put in play pulled Weingard off the bag at first, Winebark reached safely, and Lunger sprinted home.
Ahead 2-0, though, the wheels fell off a bit for Punxsy in the top of the third, allowing Corry to score five runs with the help of three errors.
It started when Riley Baker reached safely on a hard-hit ball to third, and McCray reached safely in the same manner.
Rachel Volk loaded the bases with a single up the gut, and Lehner plated two by dropping a two-RBI single down the left field line.
Brundage reached on a third fielding blunder on the Punxsy defense to load them again, and Kurlowech gave her squad a 4-2 lead with a sharp single to left.
Ishman struck out the next two Corry hitters, but when the third strike to Monika McCray skipped in the dirt, Brundage scampered home on the throw to first.
Trailing 5-2, Punxsy showed no signs of quit in its half of the third, putting up a pair to narrow Corry's lead to one.
It all happened with two outs, as McCray retired the first two on a pair of infield putouts.
Adamson reached on a two-out walk, though, and after stealing second, she scored on a rocket to right-center by Kate Horner.
Horner ended up at third with a triple, and she scored when Kim Shoemaker's pop up fell out of the second baseman's glove, bringing Punxsy back within one.
Punxsy's defense settled in the fourth, allowing a pair of baserunners but managing to hang another zero.
Baker reached base to lead off the inning, but Ishman took care of the next two on a strikeout and a 1-3 putout.
Lehner singled to put a pair on base again, but a 5-3 putout ended the inning, bringing Punxsy back to the dish.
In the bottom of the fourth, Punxsy took its lead back for good with a three-spot putting the home team ahead 7-5.
Lunger sparked the three-run inning with a single to left-center, and she moved to second on a wild pitch.
Winebark reached on another error — this time an E5 — and Lunger moved to third on the miscue.
Baker made a nice play in foul territory to retire VanLeer for the first out, but during the at-bat Winebark stole second to put a pair in scoring position for No. 3 hitter Ishman.
Ishman helped her own cause in a big way, driving a two-RBI double to center to plate Winebark and Lunger.
Bowser flew out to left for the second out, but what would prove to be a very important insurance run came in with two down, as Adamson pushed Ishman's special pinch runner, Nestel, across with a single to right for what would prove to be the winning run.
Kurlowech singled to lead off the fifth, but the next six hitters — three for Corry and three for Punxsy — went down in order bringing Corry to the plate with just three outs left.
The visitors didn't go down without a fight, scoring one to narrow the deficit to just one run.
Baker led off the inning with a single the opposite way, and she advanced to second with one out on a wild pitch.
Kylee Lingenfelter made a nice recovery after Volk slapped one off her glove and threw her out at first, putting Punxsy one out away from a victory.
In the next at-bat, Lehner drove in her third run to narrow the gap to one with a single to right, and she moved to second on the throw home.
But with a runner in scoring position, Brundage grounded one to VanLeer, who threw to first for the third out and the Section I title.