Zimmermans' blasts lead Chucks to 'W'

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsy juniors Garrett Zimmerman and Ty Zimmerman each had home runs, and the Chucks' offense scored early and often en route to an 11-3 victory over Hollidaysburg Friday afternoon in Punxsutawney.

Making the win even more special was the fact that it came on a day when Punxsy honored its seniors — players Dane Baker, Luke Janocha and Hayden Muth, as well as statisticians Gabby Kaufman and Sierra Milton.

"The seniors have been great for us this year," Punxsy head coach Mike Dickey said after the game. "They've responded well to coaching, and they've been good leaders and good examples for the others. It was a good night for them, and I'm glad we were able to win one for them."

After the seniors were honored in a pre-game ceremony, Punxsy starter — junior Jamie Bush — managed to keep the Golden Tide off the scoreboard in the top half of the first inning, and the Chucks wasted no time taking control of the lead.

Baker, Punxsy's No. 2 hitter, jump-started the offense with a one-out single up the middle.

Ty Zimmerman then put the Chucks on the board with a deep, two-run blast to left-center field.

Both teams hung zeroes in the second inning, and Hollidaysburg made things interesting by tying it up in the top half of the third inning.

Bush issued one of just two walks to Tide leadoff hitter Tanner Claar, and Aaron Burger followed with a single to put two on for No. 3 hitter Brett Hileman.

And Hileman delivered with a two-RBI double to the fence in right-center field, tying the game at two apiece.

Bush battled back, though, with some help from his defense to keep the score tied.

He forced Hollidaysburg to hit into a pair of groundouts — the first of which allowed Hileman to advance to third. But on the second groundout, third baseman Cory Geer forced the runner to retreat to the bag before throwing the hitter out, and Bush struck out the next batter to end the threat.

Punxsy regained the lead in the home half of the frame — this time for good — with a bit of help from Tide starter Andy Crum.

Crum walked leadoff hitter Ryan Sloniger, whose courtesy runner, Clayton Dale, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch.

But with none out, Crum helped the Chucks by loading the bases with another walk to Baker and a hit batsman with Zimmerman at the plate.

At that point, the Tide turned to its first of three relief pitchers on the day, Corey Sell.

Sell managed to strike out his counterpart, Bush, for the first out of the inning, but Garrett Zimmerman stepped to the plate and drove a pitch high and long over the monster in center field for a grand slam, giving Punxsy a 6-2 lead.

"We definitely came into today's game looking to get a couple other bats going," Dickey said. "And from that perspective, it was good to see Garrett hitting so well. And, Dane Baker had some good sharp hits, as well. Ty's been steady for us all year, and we really need to be clicking on all cylinders heading into the playoffs. So, it was a good thing to see today."

While Zimmerman's slam would prove to be more than enough offense, the Chucks continued to pile on insurance runs with two in the fourth and three more in their half of the sixth.

In the fourth, Punxsy rode the momentum from a nice play by senior Muth in right field.

But things didn't start so well for the Chucks as Sell retired the first two hitters he faced, but the next five Chucks reached base, allowing Punxsy to extend its lead to six runs.

Sloniger got things started again with a two-out single, and Baker's blazing speed paid off, as he reached base when the shortstop briefly bobbled a grounder off Baker's bat.

Ty Zimmerman notched his third RBI of the day with a single to right, and Bush followed suit with an RBI single of his own to give the Chucks a 8-2 lead.

Garrett Zimmerman was intentionally walked, but Sell managed to force Janocha into a flyout to right to end the frame.

Punxsy also threatened in the fifth, loading the bases on three walks by pinch hitter Alex Bevak, Sloniger and Baker. But a third relief pitcher, Jordan Baum, managed to strand all three runners by forcing a two-out groundout to third.

Already comfortably — despite Chucks' reliever Cory Geer allowing a single run in the top of the sixth — Punxsy piled on three more runs in the sixth.

Bush was walked to start things off — the third Chucks' rally that began with a walk — and after another pitching change, Garrett Zimmerman kept up his hot hitting with a double off Jordan McCall that caught chalk down the third baseline to move Bush to third.

Dale pinch hit for Janocha, who was warming in the bullpen, and delivered an RBI single, and Taylor Phillips pinch hit, as well, plating Zimmerman on a fielder's choice groundout.

Ryan Sloniger capped Punxsy's 11-run scoring day with an RBI single to right after Alex Bevak had moved Phillips to third with his own single.

Ahead 11-3, Janocha came in to pitch the final inning, and despite allowing a leadoff double to Claar, he stranded Claar at second with a pair of flyouts to Baker and a putout of his own.

While Dickey was pleased with his team's offensive attack, he did admit that while he was happy with the pitchers' performances, he wasn't going to give them an A-plus, either.

"We were OK pitching-wise," he said. "I wouldn't give us any better grade than an OK, though. We need to be a little sharper heading into the playoffs, but I will say that this was a good tuneup. They had some good hitters, and we were working on hitting some spots. So, it was a good tuneup."

Punxsy hopes to work out any kinks over the next few days at practice with the regular season coming to an end with Friday's win and the playoffs just around the corner. The Chucks will take on St. Marys in the District IX championship game Wednesday at a neutral site in Brookville.

Dickey said the team will turn to fine-tuning over the next few days of preparation for the title game, where the Chucks hope to earn their ninth-consecutive D-IX title.

"We're just going to sure everything up," he said. "We need to get to the point where we're clicking on all cylinders on offense, defense and pitching; nothing in particular really. We'll just make sure we have all our Ts crossed and our Is dotted. We'll be ready to go."