PUNXSUTAWNEY — Four Chucks were named to the District IX Northern Allegany Baseball Large School All-Star team, including two Punxsy players who nearly broke school records with the Chucks.
Seniors Brodi Lowmaster (outfield), Jordan Mesoraco (catcher), Tyler Skerkavich (designated hitter) and sophomore Ty Zimmerman (second baseman) were each honored as district All-Stars after they led the Chucks to their eighth consecutive District IX Class AAA Championship and berth in the state quarterfinals.
It would have been easy for Mesoraco to struggle as he played in his older brother's shadow — Devin Mesoraco was drafted in the first round by the Cincinnati Reds before he helped Punxsy win the state title during his senior year in 2007. But Punxsy first-year manager Mike Dickey didn't feel Mesoraco approached the sport that way and made his own mark.
"Obviously, nobody expected him to be Devin, but he didn't want to be Devin. He didn't need to be Devin's little brother," Dickey said. "He had quite a career for himself."
Mesoraco was one of the team leaders with a .500 batting average last year in 66 at-bats. This season, in 75 at-bats, he batted a team-best .440. Both seasons, he had 33 hits, which are both second-best single-season marks in school history behind Braedon Pennington's 38 in 2010.
Mesoraco also finished second to John Mizerock's .491 with a career batting average of .468 and struck out only three times compared to 13 walks this season.
His 29 RBIs (fifth), 16 career doubles (tied sixth) and 46 career RBIs in 2011 were all top-11 in school history.
"He always had a good approach when he went to the box," Dickey said. "He knew what pitch he was looking for, and he fouled pitches off when he didn't see it. What he's done is pretty impressive."
With a hole at catcher for the Chucks during his junior and senior seasons, Mesoraco made the switch from second base to behind the plate. Quickly, he became one of the team's leaders.
"He just kind of assumed more of a leadership role as well, and the younger guys kind of followed his example," Dickey said.
Skerkavich provided a powerful bat for the Chucks, bashing five of the team's 12 home runs and tallying a team-high 33 RBIs. His 33 RBIs are second-best in school history, and his 68 career RBIs are third-best.
"Skerk was that guy that other teams feared," Dickey said. "He was our power guy."
He hit .378 this season and scored 23 times — third-best on the team.
His career hits (74), career average (.376), career home runs (six), career runs (48), hits in 2011 (28) and career walks (25) are all top-15 in school history.
Though his All-Star selection says designated hitter, he started almost every game at first base this year.
"He was a big target over there," Dickey said. "I think the guys had confidence throwing it over there that he would come up with it."
Lowmaster was one of the Chucks' most clutch hitters. He batted .400 with 28 RBIs, which are seventh-best during one season in school history. He also finished 12th in school history with 26 single-season hits and doubled five times.
Lowmaster hit a three-run home run that clinched Punxsy's eighth district title, and he also had the game-winning hit during the Chucks' 12-11 victory over State College in which the team scored eight times in its final at-bat.
"He really came on this year and kind of was a pleasant surprise as far as a run producer goes," Dickey said.
Zimmerman, whom members of the team selected as the Most Valuable Player, made a seamless jump to varsity action as a sophomore. He quickly rose to the No. 2 spot in the order and was the team's starting second baseman.
Zimmerman finished the year with a .400 batting average with 29 hits, 28 runs and 22 RBI. His hit total was eighth-best in school history.
"He worked real hard over the winter, and it showed from Day One in the gym. He obviously belonged and was a great No. 2 hitter," Dickey said. "He was consistent all year long, and you just always expected him to get a hit when we needed one. He was very heady, very confident."
Zimmerman and senior shortstop Zak Dickey provided a middle infield combination that was one of the best in the district.
"I don't think I've seen a quicker middle infield as far as turning two," Mike Dickey said. "Ty and Zak worked real well together."
Dickey and senior Joe Pisano weren't picked as All-Stars, but both finished with their names in the top-20 of the school record books.
Dickey's single-season hits (26), walks (21), steals (14) and career runs (42), walks (29), steals (22) all finished in the top-15 in PAHS history. He also tied for the single-season school record in runs scored with 32. Devin Mesoraco holds in the record with 41.
Pisano, who pitched his best games during the playoffs, finished in the top-16 in career wins (eight), innings pitched (72 2/3) and strikeouts (70). He started all four of Punxsy's playoff games and recorded every out but two during those games.
As a team, the Chucks had the second-most hits in school history with 213, trailing the mark of 228 set in 2010.
Along with Dickey, Lowmaster, Mesoraco, Pisano and Skerkavich, seniors Devan Neal and Taylor Neal played their final season with the Chucks. Mike Dickey has coached those players since they were 12- or 13-years-olds for Junior Legion.
By the time their high school careers ended, Punxsy doubled its streak of district titles from four to eight.
"It was a tremendous run and exciting for me and exciting for them," Mike Dickey said. "You just kind of knew that they wouldn't be denied as I coached them for so long. They kind of came together when they knew they needed to."
Punxsy, which went 15-8 this year, saw its season come to a close due to a 6-1 loss to Northern York in the state quarterfinals. Northern York will play for the state title Friday.
"They're hurting with the loss the other day, but they proved their worth, and they made the school, town and communtity proud," Dickey said. "When the bright lights came on, for the most part, they shined. That's a testament to their guts and focus as athletes to do that."