PUNXSUTAWNEY â€” The Punxsy softball team lost three regular-season games last year, and two of them were to DuBois.
This season, an 0-2 record against the Lady Beavers just wasn't going to fly for the Lady Chucks.
Punxsy (5-0) overcame a 4-1 deficit, tied the game in the fourth inning and pulled ahead for good during a 6-4 victory over DuBois (3-1) in a battle of undefeated District IX powerhouses Thursday afternoon at Harry Noerr Field in Punxsutawney.
Thursday, the Lady Chucks returned the favor for both of DuBois' wins last year, and that was something that Punxsy manager Alan Pifer talked to his girls about before the game.
"We wanted this game bad, because they beat us twice last year," Pifer said. "They're a good team. You can't take a thing away from them. They have good pitching, defense and hitting."
Senior Shawnna Crago provided the late-game fireworks once again, as her two-run single broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the sixth inning.
When she stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, Crago didn't let the pressure get to her. Instead, she concentrated on what DuBois pitcher Carly Wallock was going to attack her with and was excited about being able to provide her team with the lead.
"(Batting with the bases loaded) gives you an adrenaline rush because you know you want to get a nice, good, solid hit and not leave any runners on. You want somebody to score on that one for sure," Crago said. "I don't push myself in a nervous position when I come up to bat. I kind of go up there and tell myself to have confidence."
Wallock was relying on a curveball to the outside corner all game, and that is what she used for a called strike on Crago earlier in the at-bat. The next pitch, Crago knew what was coming.
"I was sitting on it, and lo and behold, it was a curveball," Crago said. "I was anticipating that."
DuBois wasn't going to stop Crago and the Lady Chucks once they took the lead into the final inning. Crago, who was brought in from the designated player position to pitch in the fifth inning, induced a liner to shortstop Ashley Barenchik and two groundouts to herself to end the game.
Pifer, who surpassed 100 varsity victories last year, made all the right moves to help Punxsy win. After left-handed starting pitcher Randa Depp pitched the first four innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on four hits with four strikeouts, Crago, a right-hander, surrendered two hits during the final three innings.
By switching pitchers midway through the game, Pifer was hoping to throw off DuBois' powerful lineup, and that's exactly what happened.
"We wanted to give them one look with Randa. And if necessary, you bring in Shawnna as a change of pace, because she has different pitches, and she throws a little harder than Randa," Pifer said. "It's a different kind of pitch that they'd be facing."
Crago enjoyed coming on in relief, and while she was on the bench as the designated player during the first four innings, she was able to stay warm in the bullpen.
"A change of pace for me is coming in and finishing the game. Sometimes, I think with that, I'm more relaxed," she said. "It's still first-inning jitters, but I get warmed up pretty quickly going in like that."
Pifer also didn't give Lindsay Obremski, DuBois' cleanup hitter, many options at the plate. Punxsy intentionally walked her twice, and during her two other plate appearances, the Lady Chucks used a four-outfielder alignment that included no third baseman for the left-handed slugger.
Obremski finished 0-for-2 with two runs scored. She reached base on an error, but did not drive any runners home.
Crago's go-ahead, two-run single may have not been possible if not for Ashley Barenchik's game-tying home run in the fourth inning. Barenchik looked out-of-sorts when she was caught looking in the first and second innings on curve balls to the outside corner. In the fourth inning, following a walk drawn by pinch hitter Hannah Giavedoni, Barenchik sent a 3-2 rise ball over the left-field fence to tie the game at four.
"I was getting a little upset that she was taking pitches on the outside. I told her, 'You have to swing the bat,'" Pifer said. "When she did, she saw what the result was."
Crago finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored. She also ripped an RBI single in the first inning.
Both Barenchik and Hannah Neal were 2-for-4 with two runs scored, and Allie Shields doubled and singled out of the No. 9 spot.
Johnna Depp drove in Punxsy's second run during the third inning with a two-out single.
Wallock pitched a complete game, allowing six runs on 12 hits with one walk and five strikeouts. For as good as DuBois' offense is, Pifer was hoping pitching and defense could hold the Lady Beavers in check long enough to get to Wallock.
"We had a lot of girls hitting the ball well today. Even a lot of our outs were hard outs," Pifer said. "We've always had some success against Wallock in the past, and I felt that if we could hold them down, we'd have a good chance in this game."
Kristina Torretti led DuBois with a double, a single and a run scored. Casey Wilcox hit a two-run, two-out single during DuBois' three-run third inning, but the Lady Beavers didn't score again.
DuBois' Morgan Hanna had an RBI single and scored during the third inning.
Punxsy will play next at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Bald Eagle.View more articles in: