Lady Chucks' late magic runs out in loss to Eagles

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Things looked bleak for the Punxsy softball team heading into the bottom of the sixth inning Thursday afternoon trailing Bald Eagle 7-1, but after a come-from-behind victory over the Lady Beavers of DuBois last night, Punxsy battled back with six sixth-inning runs to tie the game.

Unfortunately, though, Punxsy's luck ran out, as the Bald Eagles plated a run in the top of the seventh and kept Punxsy off the scoreboard for an 8-7 win.

Although the scoreboard showed an 8-7 defeat, Punxsy head coach Alan Pifer liked the way his team hit the ball and was especially pleased with the way his girls never gave up, even up against an unlikely comeback.

"We might have been a bit flat coming off a big win in extra innings (Wednesday) against DuBois, but we bounced back and tied it up," Pifer said. "The scoreboard says we lost, but we did see some really good things. They had a few bleeders up the middle and bloopers over the infield that fell in. They did have some solid hits, too, but overall, I thought we had the more solid hits throughout the game. They just didn't fall in."

The Bald Eagles scored four of their runs — all unearned — in the top of the sixth with the help of a pair of Punxsy errors and a two-RBI single by leadoff hitter Chelsea Poorman.

The Lady Chucks' sixth-inning rally all began with two outs after Bald Eagle pitcher Megan Dudish sandwiched a single by designated player Ashley Walls with a pair of fly outs to leave Walls on first with two down.

The next seven players who came to the plate reached base safely, though, with six hits and a walk helping Punxsy tie the game.

Lauren Ball picked up her second hit of the day with a single, setting up a two-RBI double by senior No. 9 hitter Tori Martin in the next at-bat.

Martin's blast reached the fence in left field, and Walls scored easily, with Ball not far behind.

With the back-to-back hits by Ball and Martin, the floodgates seemed to open for Punxsy.

"Neither one of those girls batted in yesterday's game," Pifer said. "We're still kind of feeling our way along to see where we'll be at the end as far as a final lineup. But I have a lot of girls I put a lot of confidence in, and I've used my bench a lot over the past few games. In fact, Savannah Hallman came off the bench today with a solid hit to right center in the middle of that rally, but they tracked it down. Even though we came out on the short end, I was really pleased with the way those girls hit the ball."

Leadoff hitter Chelsea Engeholm kept things rolling for the Lady Chucks with a double of her own — her second of the game — to plate Martin

After Janie Depp-Hutchinson took a walk, the next three hitters for Punxsy — Sydney Phillips, Johnna Depp and Ivy Phillips — notched RBI singles.

Walls flew out to second base for the final out of the inning, but Punxsy had new life as the game was tied heading to the seventh.

"You could see it coming," Pifer said of the rally. "We hit some balls right on the screws, and I know their center fielder made some nice plays to track some balls down. But we were hitting even though they weren't falling in before that rally in the sixth inning."

Unfortunately for the Lady Chucks, the six-run streak wasn't quite enough.

Bald Eagle's Emilie Peters came up with some late-game magic of her own, starting the inning with a double down the line in left field.

Relief pitcher Randa Depp, who had come on to relieve starter Ashley Bacha in the fifth, retired the next two hitters on groundouts, but on the second — a groundout to the shortstop by Carie Barnyak — Peters' courtesy runner, Tiffany Kolp, scampered in to score what would prove to be the winning run.

While Depp was charged with five total runs, the seventh-inning run was the only earned one she allowed in three innings.

Punxsy's only other run in the contest came right off the bat to give the Lady Chucks a 1-0 lead in the first inning — their only lead of the game.

Engeholm led off the inning with a double to the fence over the center fielder's head, and she was sacrificed to third on a well-placed bunt by Depp-Hutchinson.

Dudish helped the Lady Chucks out a bit with a pair of walks to load the bases, and Ivy Phillips came through with a sacrifice fly to deep left field to plate Engeholm.

Walls walked to load the bases again, but Dudish managed to strike out Mary Sloniger to end the Punxsy threat and strand three runners.

Punxsy had only two hits — back-to-back singles by Ball and Martin in the fourth inning — over its next four trips to the plate.

After the loss, though, Pifer and his squad's spirits were high, and Pifer knows they'll have to put the loss behind them quickly with another game scheduled for this afternoon in State College.

The Lady Chucks dropped a close contest to the Little Lions in a 4-3 loss April 20 — a game during which Punxsy struggled from the plate.

"The last time we faced them, we didn't hit the ball too well," Pifer said. "That whole week really, we started out not hitting against Hollidaysburg and DuBois, and that continued against State College. But we hit pretty well against DuBois last night and hit pretty well against this pitcher today. We actually face a similar pitcher tomorrow, so we'll see what happens."

After today's contest, the Lady Chucks will host Smethport Saturday afternoon — Punxsy's fourth game in as many days. The contest is scheduled for a noon start, with senior recognition to be held prior to the game's start.