In a hole: Punxsy drops series opener to Marion Center
PUNXSUTAWNEY — Some nights, the breaks just don't go a team's way, and Wednesday night seemed to be one of those nights for Punxsy's Senior Legion team, which fell at the hands of Marion Center, 7-1, in the opening game of the first round of its best-of-three playoff series.
Despite several solid, deep line drives, the Punxsy squad struggled to get a hit to fall in, managing just three hits off Marion Center starter Jared Selkirk, who pitched a complete game to earn the win.
On the other side of the coin, Punxsy starter Jamie Bush set the visitors down in order in four of the seven innings, but six of Marion Center's nine hits came in a five-run third inning that opened up a lead that proved to be insurmountable as the game developed.
"Jamie pitched OK for us," Punxsy head coach Mike Dickey said after the game. "He wasn't extremely sharp like we've seen him be, and it was just one of those days where we hit the ball sharply numerous times, and it just didn't fall in there. It's part of the game, and I'm not sure what else you can say about it."
Both teams got out to a slow start with the bats, as the game went scoreless through the first two innings.
Punxsy starter Jamie Bush allowed a leadoff single to Marion Center's Mike Cava- zia, and after a walk allowed a second Marion Center runner, Bush got the first out on a swinging third strike to Skyler Eckenrode.
After that, the Punxsy defense did it's part, as third baseman Cory Geer fielded a grounder and threw on to Jordan Mesoraco at second, who turned it to complete an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
Punxsy leadoff hitter Zak Dickey reached base on a walk, but a second-pitch ground ball off the bat of Christian Falgout led to Marion Center's defense returning the favor with a 6-4-3 double play.
Mesoraco followed up with a hit off Selkirk that seemed bound for center field, but a great diving stop and throw to first by Matt Popovich retired Mesoraco and the side.
Both pitchers faced the minimum in the second, with neither offense recording a hit.
Popovich grounded out to first, Adam Tomayko grounded to Geer, who recovered well on the hard-hit ball and retired Tomayko for the second out.
No. 7 hitter Seth Goodlin got a good piece of his two-out drive to left, but Dane Baker moved a few steps to his right to catch it and end the frame.
Punxsy struggled to figure out Selkirk in the second, with two of three Punxsy hitters striking out. The first came against Bush, who went down and took a cut at a low pitch on a full count.
Selkirk then retired Spencer Levy on a sky-high pop up to short, and he ended the perfect inning by setting down Luke Janocha swinging.
Marion Center strung together six hits and a walk off Bush in the third, busting out the bats to open up a 5-0 lead, scoring all five with two outs.
Designated hitter Andy Fox led off the inning with an infield single on a chopper in front of the plate, but Bush took care of him quickly with a wicked pickoff move catching him leaning.
Geer made a nice play cutting off a ball bound for the hole to retire Eric Adamson for the inning's second out, but things unraveled from there for Punxsy.
It started at the top with Cavazia stretching a bloop single to left into two bases, and Stiles wasted no time plating him with an RBI single to left.
With Stiles moving into scoring position on the throw home, Eckenrode capitalized with an RBI single of his own to center to put the visitors up 2-0.
Cody Tomayko singled to center to put a pair of runners on the corners, and Popovich walked to load them before Eckenrode sprinted home on a wild pitch that rode high up the backstop.
Adam Tomayko put a cap on the five-run frame by delivering a two-RBI double on a line to the fence in left.
Punxsy failed to answer in the home half, managing just one baserunner on a leadoff walk to Geer, and the game headed to the fourth with Marion Center up by five.
Bush returned to form in the fourth, setting Marion Center down in order on a pair of fly outs and a strikeout sandwiched between, and Punxsy put its only run on the board in the home half.
Mesoraco started it with a one-out single to center for Punxsy's first hit of the game, and Bush helped his own cause with a hit to left — one he stretched into a double, sliding in just ahead of the tag.
Levy provided the Punxsy run with a sacrifice fly to deep left field, and the lead was narrowed to 5-1.
The fifth was another uneventful inning, as Bush set down Marion Center in order in quick order and Selkirk kept Punxsy off the board despite a pair of walks.
The first walk was issued to Geer, but he was gunned down trying to steal second before Michael Klingensmith took a second walk to reach.
A fly out by Taylor Phillips and a pop out off Dickey's bat ended the inning with Punxsy still trailing by four.
Bush set Marion Center down in order for the third straight inning in the sixth with the help of Levy's perfect throw retiring Goodlin as he attempted to steal second with two outs.
But with the sense of urgency increasing, Punxsy couldn't capitalize on a leadoff single by Falgout in the home half.
Falgout ripped one up the middle to reach safely, but a pop out to third and an F7 on a rope to left by Bush gave Marion Center two outs.
Falgout stole second with two outs, but he was stranded there when Levy struck out to retire the side.
Marion Center added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the seventh to open up a 7-1 lead.
Fox got things rolling with a leadoff infield single despite Dickey's best efforts on a tough hop.
Bush struck out Adamson for the first out of the inning, but Cavazia put a pair on with a bunt single.
Stiles grounded into a fielder's choice, leaving runners at the corners, but Marion Center did it again, scoring both insurance runs with two outs.
The first came on a passed ball, allowing Fox to trot home, and the second scored when Eckenrode was caught leaning and ended up in a rundown.
Dickey ended up catching Eckenrode, but Stiles scored before the tag was applied for Marion Center's seventh run.
Despite some control issues by Selkirk in the bottom half, the six-run cushion proved to be more than enough, and Marion Center held on for a 7-1 win.
A leadoff walk to Janocha and a two-out free pass to pinch hitter Matt Burkett gave Punxsy some life, but it wasn't enough, as Selkirk fanned two in the last half inning.
With the best-of-three series now hanging in the balances — and leaning heavily toward Marion Center's favor — Punxsy looks to bounce back with a win on the road tonight in Marion Center.
"We need to come back (tonight) and play some good baseball," coach Dickey said. "We're certainly capable of it. We had some at-bats at the end of the game that I didn't really like. But most of the guys hit the ball hard at some point — they were just right at somebody. Hats off to Marion Center; now, we have to come back and regroup tomorrow."