Punxsy bats stay hot in opener at Sectionals

CRANBERRY — Already leading 4-1, Punxsy's 10- and 11-year old All-Stars batted around in the fourth inning and scored seven runs to defeat McLane 11-1 in four innings in the opening round of the Section 1 tournament Thursday in Cranberry.

"We've been off for a whole week and were anxious to get going," manager Brad Gigliotti said. "We've been pounding the ball at batting practice and bringing in faster pitchers to get them used to it. It's paying off."

With the win, Punxsy advances to tonight's winners' bracket final against Harborcreek, which will be played at 6 p.m. in Cranberry, which beat Franklin Thursday.

McLane was moved to the losers' bracket and will play Franklin at 2 p.m. today.

Punxsy's fourth inning started with a single up the middle by Kevin Constant. Tyler Richardson followed with a single of his own, and Matt Greenblatt walked to load the bases for leadoff hitter Brandon Matthews.

Matthews hit a two-RBI single to score Constant and Richardson, and John Serian drove in Greenblatt on a single to extend Punxsy's lead to 7-1.

Mattthews scored on a wild pitch, and Blose and Sammy Gigliotti walked to load the bases, again. Tyler Getch also walked, bringing in Serian and stretching Punxsy's lead to eight.

Pinch hitter Brandon McGee entered the game and quickly ended it with a perfectly-placed one-out single down the right field line, scoring Blose and Gigliotti and ending the game via the ten-run rule.

"We win as a team, and we lose as a team," manager Gigliotti said. "I'm proud of everybody. The subs are coming off the bench and clutching up when we need them to."

Punxsy received a strong performance from both its pitchers, as well.

Richardson started the game for Punxsy, and worked 2 2/3-innings, allowing one unearned run on two hits and earning the win.

McLane scored its only run in the third inning without recording a hit.

Brenden Manchester reached base on an error, moved to third on a groundout by Matt Lamoreaux and scored when Shane Johnson reached on Punxsy's second error of the inning.

After Richardson reached his pitch count limit part way through the top of the third, Sammy Gigliotti relieved him and pitched the rest of the game. Gigliotti pitched one 1/3-innings, allowing no runs on no hits.

"They both kept the ball down, and we stayed right where we wanted to with pitch count," manager Gigliotti said.

With Little League rules limiting the eligibility of pitchers based on how many pitches they pitch each game, Punxsy left itself with more options later in the tournament by removing Richardson at a certain number of pitches.

The entire Section 1 tournament will be completed by Monday, forcing teams to use more pitchers than they would use in the District tournament.

Punxsy also scored three runs in the first inning with two outs. Blose started things for Punxsy with a single. Neal reached on an error, and Sammy Gigliotti drove both runners in with an RBI double.

Getch followed with an RBI single, Gigliotti scored on a passed ball giving Punxsy the early 3-0 lead. Gigliotti also had an RBI double in the third inning.

"Their team made a few really great plays, and a couple of those early hits in the hole should have been hits for us," Gigliotti said. "We just played a really great team, and I'm really optimistic about the way we're playing. I'm really proud of all these guys."

With temperatures in the high 90s, and the heat index near 105, manager Gigliotti had one simple piece of advice for his players: "Drink lots of water."

The forecast doesn't look much cooler for today, but Punxsy does have the advantage of playing the 6 p.m. game, when it won't be quite as hot.

Gigliotti stayed last night to check out the 6 p.m. game to scout his opponents. "They're going to be some good teams, I'm sure," he said.

If Punxsy wins today, it will earn the coveted night off before the Section 1 final on Sunday.