PUNXSUTAWNEY — Senior right-hander Joe Pisano has proven to be the Punxsy baseball team's No. 1 pitcher this season, but entering today's PIAA Class AAA Quarterfinal game against Northern York, the Chucks may have to rely on another pitcher to send the Chucks into the state semifinals for the third time in seven years.
Who Punxsy's starter will be at 4 p.m. today at Replogle Field in New Enterprise against Northern York is up in the air, as Chucks manager Mike Dickey said Wednesday that the decision has yet to be made.
"We have a lefty, we have a righty option. We don't know which way we're leaning yet, but all arms are going to be available," Dickey said. "We're going to make a decision as a staff and go with it. Some of it may be based on matchups and getting the base nine bats in the lineup."
Though Dickey would not say, it's more than likely that the left-hander is senior Brodi Lowmaster and the righty is senior Taylor Neal or junior Dane Baker. Behind Pisano, Lowmaster, Neal and Baker have been the Chucks' most effective pitchers this season.
But Dickey is still not ruling out Pisano, who has pitched all 19 playoff innings and allowed five earned runs. Pisano threw only 58 pitches during Punxsy's 11-1 win in five innings over Hampton in the first round of the state playoffs Monday.
"Joe should be available as well, for a couple innings, anyway. We have everybody prepared," Dickey said. "I don't think they were a very stressful 58. All hands are on deck, and we have to win. Whatever it takes to win."
The lineup in which one of those four Chucks will oppose hit .367 and features four players who batted better than .400, including leadoff hitter Joe Tuschak, who was drafted in the sixth round as the 192nd overall pick by the New York Mets Tuesday.
Tuschak is hitting .469 this season with career highs in home runs (eight), RBIs (30) and doubles (six).
The Polar Bears (20-5), the No. 3 team out of District III, are also led by Cody McLaughlin (.468, 23 RBIs, eight doubles), Dylan Tamecki (.446, 33 RBIs, 15 extra-base hits) and Jon Mayer (.427, five home runs, 31 RBIs, seven doubles). McLaughlin tweaked his hamstring Monday, and Northern York is unsure of his status for today, according to The Sentinel in Carlisle.
Many similarities come from examining the Chucks and Polar Bears' wins Monday. Northern York won 11-0 over Somerset, and of their 14 hits, eight players had at least one.
Seven Chucks had at least one hit Monday, and both teams played quality defense. Neither committed errors, and both turned two double plays.
Punxsy (15-7) enters today's game on a nine-game winning streak. Northern York has won eight of its past nine games, with its previous loss coming to Twin Valley May 31. Twin Valley, which is also in the state quarterfinals, won 4-3.
"Based on their game the other day, it sounded like we're mirror images. They play great defense. They got timely hitting and good pitching," Dickey said. "Based on the playoffs, we sound like we're comparable in that regard. Obviously, that's the key to still be playing at this point — to do all those things."
Punxsy's offense is just as hot as Northern York's. The Chucks have averaged 10.3 runs per game behind cleanup hitter Jordan Mesoraco, who is 8-for-11 (.727) with three doubles and four RBIs.
Lowmaster (5-for-9, six RBIs, five runs), Taylor Neal (5-for-9, four runs), Zak Dickey (4-for-9, seven RBIs) and Tyler Skerkavich (5-for-10) have also had impressive postseasons, and Pisano, Ty Zimmerman and Devan Neal are averaging one hit a game in the playoffs.
"We're confident in our abilities," manager Dickey said. "The fact that we've been getting contributions up and down the order gives us even more confidence, and that's going to have to continue."
They'll be in for a challenge against junior Vince Apicella, who has a 0.67 ERA this season and has limited the opponents' batting average to .137. In nine starts and through 63 innings, he is 8-1 with eight complete games, six shutouts and has thrown 109 strikeouts and 15 walks. Apicella's statistics are impressive, but the Chucks won't find out how they match up until the first pitch at 4 p.m. today.
"On paper, yes, we have to play our best game. Matchups on paper are simply that," Dickey said. "Until you see somebody, you don't know how good they are or how good you are.
"We're not going down there just to show up," he said. "If we play good baseball, get good pitching, do all those things that we talked about, hopefully, we'll have a chance to win it in the end."