Seniors come up big with a win over Smethport on Senior Day

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Before Saturday afternoon's softball game against Smethport, the Lady Chucks took time to pay tribute to the members of their team who will be graduating in less than a month.

In the game that followed, Punxsy's seniors shined — highlighted by a three-RBI triple by senior catcher Johnna Depp — in an 8-4 victory over the Hubbers.

After the game, Punxsy head coach Alan Pifer said he was pleased with the team's performance to close out a busy week heading into another this week.

"We needed that to close out the week and catapault us into (this) week," he said. "We play five games over five days (this) week, including a double header against Brookville Wednesday, and we're neck and neck with St. Marys, battling them for the top seed in the playoffs. So, this win is a big one."

Despite the pleasing result, though, things didn't start out so hot for the Lady Chucks, with Smethport riding some solid hitting to a 3-0 lead after the first inning-and-a-half.

The Hubbers' leadoff hitter, Tierra Johnson, roped a double to the left-center gap to get things going. Despite striking out two of the next three batters, it was the middle one, No. 3 hitter Stacey Herzog, who delivered with an RBI single to center to give Smethport a 1-0 lead. Depp continued to display her fine arm, though, to get Punxsy out of the jam with minimal damage, throwing Herzog out on an attempted steal.

Punxsy came out swinging, as well, with Depp and Janie Depp-Hutchinson connecting on two well-hit balls to lead things off in the bottom half. Unfortunately, though, both were hit directly to Herzog, who fielded them cleanly for 6-3 putouts.

Punxsy starter Ashley Bacha picked up a pair of quick outs in the second inning on a weak pop up to senior short stop Alex Magill and a strikeout, but Smethport used three consecutive hits to draw blood with two outs.

Sarah Vinca started things with an infield single into the gap between short and third. Megan Zylinski followed with a single of her own, advancing to second when the Lady Chucks' throw went to third base to try to retire Vinca. Both runners were safe, putting two in scoring positon for No. 9 hitter Tori Johnson.

Johnson, a slap hitter, hit one just over the infielders' heads that continued to slice into into the left-field corner for a two-RBI double to put Smethport ahead 3-0.

Punxsy used three hits of its own in the bottom half of the frame, though, to even the score at three.

Senior Tori Martin started things with a one-out walk, and Lauren Ball followed with a bloop single over the second baseman's glove.

Next, it was senior Randa Depp's turn, and she delivered with a single up the middle to load the bases. Zylinski struck out Magill for the second out, but Johnna Depp delivered with a three-RBI, bases-clearing triple to right field to tie it with two outs.

"That was big after they jumped on top with three runs in the first two innings," Pifer said of Depp's clutch hit. "She kind of got us rolling, and we kept scoring from then on. Both her and Janie had hit the ball hard their first time up, but they both hit it right at someone. We needed that to prove to ourselves that we could get rolling. It was nice, because Lauren and Randa kind of got on with hits that weren't very hard ones, but they put the bat on the ball and got on base. But then, Johnna really tagged that one."

Smethport threatened again in the third with a bit of help from Punxsy's defense. Herzog led off with a single, and after a nice play by Magill, her throw to second wasn't handled by Ivy Phillips, allowing runners to first and second.

Punxsy stepped it up on the defensive end after that, though, and blanked the Hubbers in the frame.

Bacha took care of the first one herself, striking out Kate Mendi. Then, Bacha and Johnna Depp connected on an attempted squeeze play, with Bacha fielding and throwing it home and Depp holding on despite Herzog arriving at the same time as the ball for the out.

With two outs, and runners on first and second, Depp-Hutchinson bailed the Lady Chucks out with a nice 5-unassisted play to end the inning.

In the bottom half of the third, the Lady Chucks took the lead for good with a pair of runs.

Phillips more than rebounded from the fielding error by reaching base on a walk and stealing second. After being moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Ashley Walls, Phillips finished it off on her own by scoring on a wild pitch.

Meanwhile, Sydney Phillips had walked and stolen second, and she advanced to third on the wild pitch.

Martin hit what would have been an RBI-groundout to short to plate Phillips, but Herzog bobbled the ball, and Martin reached safely. Ball and Randa Depp's replacement while she warmed up for a relief pitching effort, Monica Cameron, followed with a pair of infield singles to load the bases with one out.

Smethport's defense made a nice play on the next hit, a well-struck ball to short, and Herzog made a 6-2 putout to prevent Punxsy from adding on.

Bacha had her best inning of the game in the fourth, retiring the Hubbers in order, and Punxsy came back for two more fourth-inning runs.

Ivy Phllips started it with her third walk of the game, and Walls followed with a single. The Lady Chucks capitalized on a pair of errors, allowing Sydney Phillips and Martin to reach base and plating Ivy Phillips and Walls to give Punxsy a 7-3 lead.

The Hubbers scored their final run in the fifth, with Herzog picking up her third hit of the game on a double to left-center, and she later scored on an error.

After the next two hitters reached base, Pifer decided to lift Bacha and close out the game with Randa Depp.

"Ashley was falling a little bit behind in the counts, but they were just a good hitting team," he said. "So, I decided to go with Randa just to give them a little different look, and it worked for us."

Depp closed out the game by facing just one more than the minimum over 2 1/3-innings — the only flaw being a walk.

The Lady Chucks added the final insurance run in the fifth with two outs. Johnna Depp reached on a single and advanced to third on a single by Depp-Hutchinson. With pinch runner Anna Horner in for Depp-Hutchinson, the Lady Chucks executed a double steal to extend the lead to 8-4.

Randa Depp struck out the side in the sixth and retired the Hubbers on three quick grounders in the seventh to finish out the win.

After a day off Sunday, Punxsy jumps right back into action at 4:15 p.m. today with a contest at Hollidaysburg. Punxsy's only day off through the week comes Tuesday, and it closes the week with four games in three days — a double header against Brookville Wednesday, a home game against Altoona Thursday and a regular-season-ending road trip to Clearfield Friday.