PUNXSUTAWNEY — An inning after it allowed eight runs and lost to District IX Class AAA rival St. Marys 14-3 in five innings, the Punxsy baseball team had another game to play Monday night at Rich Kuntz Memorial Field.
Instead of feeling sorry for themselves and letting a loss affect them, the Chucks responded with a five-run first inning during Game 2 and defeated the Dutch 12-3 to split the season series.
St. Marys (3-6) led 6-3 through 2 1/2-innings April 12 at home against the Chucks (5-4) when rain suspended the game. Instead of making the game up in St. Marys, it was decided that the teams would play the remainder of the first game before the regularly-scheduled second game Monday.
The Dutch picked off right where they left off April 12, as an eight-run fourth inning carried into a 14-3 win in five innings.
The second game was completely the opposite, as the Chucks were the ones who led early and often. Punxsy's 6-3 lead turned into a 12-3 win once relief pitcher Taylor Neal entered the game and shut down the Dutch's powerful bats.
Neal said winning the second game was all about forgetting the first loss, not to mention the previous three before that.
"We hadn't been playing well lately. (It was important) to get that winning attitude and know we can win and just erase the past four games," Neal said. "That's not our team. The team that played (the second game) today is our game."
Neal delivered 4 2/3 scoreless innings. He surrendered just three hits, didn't walk a batter and struck out a pair. St. Marys didn't put a runner in scoring position again after stranding one on second base in the fifth inning.
What worked so well for Neal was his ability to keep the ball down. Punxsy starting pitcher Luke Janocha did well during 2 1/3-innings, but he left the ball up twice to Jordan Weinzierl and Kevin Hoy during the third inning, and both hit solo home runs over the tall fence in center field.
"I knew that Taylor would be a guy to keep it down, and he did. That's an outstanding job," Punxsy manager Mike Dickey said. "That's what they're looking for. We're not getting consistent starting pitching, and that's hurting us."
Helping Janocha and Neal were the 13 hits Punxsy totaled in the game. Every starter had at least one hit or drove in at least one run during the game.
"That's good, and it helps the pitchers' attitude on the mound, knowing that they're going to have runs for them," Neal said. "The past couple games, we haven't had that offense."
Ten of Punxsy's 12 hits came from its top five batters. Zak Dickey was 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored; Ty Zimmerman was 3-for-4 with two doubles, three runs scored and an RBI; Jordan Mesoraco singled twice, reached base all five times and drove in a pair; Tyler Skerkavich singled, scored twice and had an RBI; and Joe Pisano was 2-for-4 with a double, a run and an RBI.
Brodi Lowmaster also doubled home Punxsy's final two runs in the fifth inning, Jamie Bush had an RBI singled, Garrett Zimmerman singled, and Devan Neal brought home a run on a sacrfice fly and scored later in the game.
"That's production. We need that. We've been struggling from (No.) 5 through 9," Dickey said. "We do get guys at the top on, and we've been stranding them. It's good to see a little production most of the way down the order."
St. Marys scored eight runs during the fourth inning of its Game 1 win.
Ryan Uhl hit a three-run home run, and Justin Quiggle doubled and hit a two-run home run during the fourth inning.
Uhl pitched both innings of Game 1 for the win. He allowed just one hit, walked one and struck out a pair.
After Uhl's strong performance to win Game 1, St. Marys penciled him in to start Game 2, also.
Uhl recorded just one out during Game 2, allowing five runs on four hits with two walks.
Lowmaster took the loss during Game 1.
The Chucks will travel to Clearfield, another District IX Class AAA rival, for a 4 p.m. start Thursday.