DUBOIS â€” With a three-day rest and the tournament's king seed on the line, Punxsy and DuBois' 11- and 12-year-old softball All-Stars faced off in the winners' bracket championship game Monday evening in DuBois.
And behind a two-run sixth inning, DuBois earned a come-from-behind win to advance to the District X final Friday.
After the game, Punxsy head coach Mike Ishman attributed the loss to a couple simple concepts: DuBois got the hits when it needed them, and Punxsy made a few too many mistakes and didn't get the hits when it needed them most.
"It was a tough way to lose," he said, referring to the come-from-behind fashion of the game. "But we made a few too many mistakes, and they capitalized with hits when they needed them. We left too many girls on base, and just couldn't get the big hit when we needed it. They were just the better team today, and they earned the win."
The two-run sixth was sparked by a pair of back-to-back singles by Katelyn Bender â€” a single that caught up in the wind and fell just in front of Horner â€” and Gabi Wayne â€” an infield single during which Bender barely beat the throw from third baseman Kylee Lingenfelter, who had to double clutch to make sure the bag would be covered in time.
Rachel Gildersleeve laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, and on the throw from catcher Tessa Winebark down to first, Bender kept on trucking home, sliding safely underneath the tag on the return throw home to tie the game at two.
Kacie Means came to the plate with one out and laced another grounder right at third baseman Lingenfelter, who fielded it cleanly and threw on to first.
On the throw across, Wayne broke for the plate, and she slid just beneath the tag from Winebark to seal the win for DuBois.
As expected leading up to the game, it was a heated pitchers' duel, pitting two of the district's top pitchers against each other â€” Punxsy's Alli Ishman and DuBois' Bender â€” and both proved to be worthy of the recognition.
In fact, the pair's lines looked quite similar, with Ishman allowing three runs on five hits, walking none and striking out five and Bender allowing two runs on the same number of hits, with three walks and three strikeouts.
After the coin toss, the game started with Punxsy taking first cuts as the visiting team, and DuBois took the field as the home team.
Bender earned a quick out on a 4-3 putout off the bat of leadoff hitter Kate Horner, but Punxsy got some instant offense out of Morgan VanLeer, who doubled over left fielder Sarah Snyder's head.
VanLeer moved up to third base on a wild pitch, and Ishman walked to put a pair on with just one out.
Up next, Punxsy cleanup hitter Danielle Bowser plated the visiting squad's first run with an RBI groundout to second baseman Kylee Bundy.
Jordyn Powell came to the dish next for Punxsy and completed a busy inning for Bundy, hitting a third grounder to her, which she threw on to first for another putout.
Trailing 1-0, DuBois answered immediately in the home half of the first, with the assistance of three Punxsy fielding errors.
The first came with leadoff hitter Snyder, when she reached on a dropped ball at first base by Bowser.
Snyder used her wheels to quickly steal second before Ishman took care of No. 2 hitter Danessa Allison, catching her looking at a third-strike change-up.
Laura Fatula tied things up for DuBois with an RBI single up the middle to score Snyder before Ishman got Bender to fly out to deep center field on a nice play by Horner to track it down.
Wayne reached base via another error, and as the ball flew past Bowser to the fence, right fielder Kim Shoemaker backed up the play and saved a run, forcing Fatula to stop at third.
And with runners on second and third, Ishman forced Gildersleeve to ground out to second to end the threat with the game still tied.
Punxsy jumped right back into the lead with another run in the top of the second on a rally started by a leadoff single by Shoemaker.
Shoemaker stole second base and moved up to third on a passed ball after No. 7 hitter Alli Lunger flew out to right for the first out, and with one out, McKenzie Atcheson walked to put a pair on base.
Tessa Winebark, Punxsy's No. 9 hitter, drove in the second run with yet another groundout to Bundy before Horner popped out to Bundy to end the inning.
Ishman made quick work of the home squad in the second, setting them down in order on a groundout to Atcheson at third, another defensive gem by Shoemaker in right and an unassisted putout by Bowser to hold the lead.
Punxsy kept up its trend of picking up one hit per inning off Bender in the third when Ishman belted a one-out single under the third baseman's glove, but Ishman traded places with Bowser on a fielder's choice, and pinch hitter Morgan Adamson grounded out to first base to end the frame.
DuBois threatened in the third when pinch hitter Lexi Ray reached on a hard-hit ball to short, and on a fielder's choice, Fatula moved to first base. Bender came through with a single to help her cause, but Ishman worked out of the jam of two runners in scoring position with a strikeout of Wayne.
Punxsy managed two baserunners in the fourth with two outs on a walk to Kerstin Nestel â€”Â who entered the game for Atcheson â€”Â and a single to right by Winebark. But Bender managed to strike out Horner and strand two.
Ishman picked up her second 1-2-3 inning by setting Gildersleeve, Means and pinch hitter Erin Siders down in order on a strikeout and a pair of 6-3 putouts, respectively.
But Punxsy managed just one baserunner on no hits in the fifth, with Bowser reaching on a throwing error by Bender with two outs before another 4-3 putout ended the frame.
DuBois' Ray hit a rope to right-center for a two-out double in the fifth, and she advanced to third on a wild pitch. But a great play by Lingenfelter earned her a 5-3 putout and preserved Punxsy's 2-1 lead.
Punxsy again mustered one hit against Bender in the sixth, a one-out poke by Lunger that skipped right over the first base bag, but after she stole second and moved up to third on a wild pitch, she was stranded at third for Punxsy's seventh runner left on base of the game.
With Bender coming to the plate, DuBois was right where it wanted to be in the order, and the home squad came through with the thrilling victory to earn the right to play for the District X championship Friday. With the loss, Punxsy will play Wednesday against either St. Marys or Warren.View more articles in: