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Punxsy walks off after trading leads with DuBois

May 10, 2012

Punxsy's Mary Sloniger connects on a pitch for a single down the third baseline in Punxsy's nine-inning 9-8 victory over DuBois Wednesday in Punxsutawney. Sloniger's single was too sharply-struck to give her credit for an RBI, but her hit led to a throwing error, which allowed Ivy Phillips to score the game-winning run. (Photo by Zak Lantz of The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — A six-inning pitcher's duel between Punxsy starter Randa Depp and DuBois starter Samantha Kirk got messy — as did the field — when the skies opened up and the rain made it difficult to pitch Wednesday afternoon in Punxsutawney.

But after a lengthy delay, the Lady Chucks made it worth the wait with Ivy Phillips scoring after a single by Mary Sloniger to give Punxsy a 9-8 victory in nine innings.

Phillips led off the inning with a single back up the middle, but after a failed sacrifice bunt attempt, she was still at first with one out.

Monica Cameron pinch hit and laid down a perfect sacrifice in the next at-bat, though, advancing Phillips to scoring position with two outs and bringing Sloniger to the dish.

Sloniger stepped into one, driving it down the third baseline for a single, but she hit it so hard that the DuBois left fielder played it and made a throw home, seemingly stalling Phillips at third.

The ball skipped through the moist dirt in front of home plate, though, and ended up at the backstop, allowing Phillips to scamper home and giving the Lady Chucks another walk-off victory.

"I saw something in the gym with Mary yesterday," Punxsy head coach Alan Pifer said. "That's why she got the start today. She was hitting the ball right on the button and was hitting the balls that were down and away. I told her when she came up to swing hard. She'd hit it hard twice already on a hit earlier in the game and a deep fly out. She hit it too hard, in fact. It got out there too fast, and we had to hold Ivy, but Ivy's a great base runner and saw an opportunity to score on the overthrow."

The late-game drama didn't seem as if it would come into play, as Punxsy led 6-4 after six full innings. And after two quick outs, it seemed as if the Lady Chucks were certain to wrap up the game. But some good hustle by DuBois leadoff hitter Cheyene McKee on a bang-bang play at first left the door open, and the Lady Beavers stormed through.

Kirk reached on an error as Janie Depp-Hutchinson's throw pulled first baseman Tori Martin just off the bag, and the next three hitters walked before Rachael Henry drove in the fourth run with a single.

Three of the four seventh-inning runs came on wild pitches — forcing Punxsy to turn to reliever Ashley Bacha.

From that point forward, Bacha retired seven of the next nine she faced, including striking out the side in the top of the ninth, to keep the Lady Beavers at bay.

"Randa is a tremendous competitor, but I could see she was struggling with the wet ball," Pifer said. "The worst part was the uniform was wet, too, so she couldn't keep her hand dry, and then I think it actually started to bother her a bit. Ashley brings some different things to the table. Randa has certain pitches that work for her, and Ashley has others. It really paid off for us, as she had them guessing."

The way Bacha managed two of the seven she retired — freshmen powerhouses, the McKee sisters — especially impressed Pifer.

"To get those McKee girls out is tough," he said. "They're two tremendous hitters. I usually call pitches and look for a weakness in a hitter we can try to exploit. With those girls, I haven't found it yet, but Ashley did a good job with them."

None of the ninth-inning dramatics would have been possible, however, if the Lady Chucks hadn't battled back trailing 8-6 in the seventh to tie the game and send it into extra frames.

Janie Depp-Hutchinson started the Lady Chucks' comeback with a single, and Sydney Phillips followed with a walk. Both later scored on a single by Ashley Bacha to tie the game at eight.

Kirk worked out of the jam with the help of Kristina Torretti on two fly balls.

At that point, despite the rain easing, the field was deemed too wet to continue play, and the game was delayed for 45 minutes as the coaches went to work repairing the field.

"We made some mistakes in the field, and they did too," Pifer said after the game. "You can attribute a lot of that to the field conditions. Both teams struggled from warmups on, but we both had to play in it, and we capitalized when we needed to."

Punxsy  jumped out to a fast start riding the momentum from a 9-3 double play on a nice throw by Tori Martin with a five-run first inning, during which it batted around against DuBois starter Kirk.

Chelsea Engeholm started the rally with a double deep into the gap in right-center field. She was sacrificed to third on a bunt by Depp-Hutchinson and scored on an RBI double by No. 3 hitter Sydney Phillips.

Phillips scored on the next hit, an RBI single to center by Johnna Depp.

Depp advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on a miscue between DuBois' pitcher and catcher.

After Ivy Phillips walked to put runners on the corners, the Lady Chucks executed a double steal, allowing Depp to score.

Randa Depp singled Phillips to third, and on the next pitch Punxsy put on a second double steal, manag- ing to plate Phillips.

An RBI single by No. 8 hitter Mary Sloniger capped the five-run inning for Punxsy.

Dubois answered with a pair of runs in the top of the second on a two-RBI single up the middle by Torretti, and after blanking Punxsy in the second the Lady Beavers pulled within one when Cheyenne McKee scored as Sierra McKee reached on an error.

The next run was Punxsy's and it came in the fourth, when senior Alex Magill reached via walk to lead off the inning.

Engeholm attempted to sacrifice Magill over and ended up reaching on a well-placed bunt. Magill advanced to third with nobody covering and never stopped running, as the throw across the diamond skipped to the fence.

Magill's run gave the Lady Chucks a 6-3 lead.

DuBois chipped away in the sixth inning with one run, as Kirk scored on a fielder's choice hit by Casey Wilcox to set up the seventh- inning comeback.

Engeholm led Punxsy's offense for the day with a 3-for-5 outing, including a double.

Sloniger and Johnna Depp each had two base hits, and Sydney Phillips' double rounded out the extra-base hits.

Randa Depp pitched 6 2/3-innings, allowing eight runs on six hits, walking seven — three of which came during the heavy rain — and striking out five.

Bacha earned the win, pitching 2 1/3-innings of scoreless ball, allowing two hits and striking out five.

The Lady Chucks will have little time off with a busy schedule over the next two weeks, including a 4:15 p.m. contest against Bald Eagle this afternoon.

Today's game is a rescheduled make-up game after it was rained out Tuesday.

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