Punxsy drops first game of best-of-three series to Blairsville, 11-1
PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsy Fezell Enterprises Junior Legion baseball team left 13 runners on base, scoring only one run, and lost the first of a best-of-three-game playoff series against Blairsville Kovacic Insurance 11-1 Friday night in Punxsutawney.
The loss was Punxsy's first in 14 games, as it ended the regular season with a 13 game winning streak.
Despite the loss, Punxsy is still alive in the opening round of the playoffs.
"We're not out of it yet," Punxsy manager Mike Klingensmith said. "We've got lots of good ball players, and we're going to go out there and get them tomorrow."
Punxsy will travel to Blairsville today for a 5 p.m. rematch against Kovacic. If Punxsy wins today, it'll play the third, and deciding, game of the series at 5 p.m. Sunday in Punxsutawney.
Blairsville scored eight of its 11 runs in the final three innings off of Punxsy relief pitchers Ty Zimmerman and Michael Klingensmith.
Alex Bevak started the game for Punxsy, but was relieved after four innings with Punxsy trailing 3-1.
Bevak allowed three runs on four hits, walked five batters and struck out two. He was also charged with the loss.
Zimmerman pitched 1 1/3-innings, allowing six runs on six hits and walking two, while Klingensmith pitched the final 1 2/3-innings allowing two runs on two hits, walking three and striking out two.
Blairsville brought 10 hitters to the plate in the top of the sixth, scoring four runs on three hits and four walks for its most productive inning of the night.
The inning was highlighted by a two-RBI double by Scotty Thompson.
On the offensive side, Punxsy had plenty of opportunities but struggled to bring any runners across home plate, stranding 13 runners.
Punxsy left the bases loaded in the second and fifth innings.
"The score should have been 11-10 or something like that," manager Klingensmith said. "We left 13 runners on base, and you just can't do that. Hopefully we're able to turn that around tomorrow."
Blairsville starting pitcher Bobby Gaston struggled with his control, walking seven Punxsy hitters, but was able to pitch his way out of each jam he found himself in.
"He was a very good pitcher," Klingensmith said. "That's a really good ball team. So, we're going to have to play hard, and we knew that coming in."
Punxsy's only run came in the second inning when Zach Bevak walked, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Alex Bevak.
Keeston Perry was the only Punxsy hitter to notch more than one hit, doubling in the fourth and singling in the fifth. Perry also had a walk in the second inning.
Thompson came on in relief for Gaston in the sixth and pitched two innings of no-hit baseball to close out the win.
Although the loss was a tough one to take for Punxsy, it needs to have a short memory going into today's rematch with Blairsville, as today's game will be win-or-go-home for Punxsy.
With the tournament on the line, Punxsy will send its star pitcher, Cory Geer, to the mound today.
"I believe I'm going to throw Cory, because there are no games after that if we lose. I think we'll be okay. We're not going to throw our hand in yet," Klingensmith said.
Motivation is key in big games like today's, especially when they come just one day after a tough loss.
Klingensmith had encouraging words for his players in a post-game meeting in left field.
"I told them, 'We've got two games to win, and that's exactly what we're going to do,'" he said.
"We're going to go out tomorrow and win and then come home and win that third one."