PUNXSUTAWNEY — With Tuesday night's down- to-the-wire win over St. Marys, the Punxsy Little League baseball All-Stars earned another shot at DuBois.
Punxsy, which dropped to the losers' bracket with an 11-1 loss in five innings to DuBois last Sunday, scored nine runs during the first three innings and made some clutch plays defensively Tuesday to edge St. Marys, 10-8.
Punxsy will head back to DuBois for a 6 p.m. start Thursday. With the win, DuBois will be the District 10 southern tier champion. A Punxsy win Thursday will create an if-necessary rematch Friday, and whichever team wins Friday will be the southern tier champion.
Peyton Graham, Ethan Riley and Dylan Huey hit home runs, and Lucas Ambler pitched 1 1/3 clutch innings for the save during Punxsy's win Tuesday.
With Punxsy ahead 9-7 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Ambler replaced Graham on the mound with two runners on and two outs. Ambler then walked the bases loaded, but he induced a pop up to catcher Joey DiPietro to end the threat and preserve Punxsy's lead.
Punxsy then led 10-8 in the sixth when a play at the plate ended the game. Canaan Knox's throw from the outfield found Graham, whose relay throw to DiPietro caught St. Marys' runner at home to complete the victory.
Punxsy manager Joe DiPietro raved about the job Ambler did on the mound during the final 1 1/3-innings.
"Ambler came into a very tough situation. He's very mentally strong, and he battled through it," he said. "I have to give him a lot of credit. That's a tight spot to come into, and he threw perfect pitches."
Punxsy's offense exploded Tuesday after its one-run effort Sunday. Graham was 3-for-3 with a solo home run, three RBIs and three runs; Riley bashed a two-run homer and singled; Huey jacked a solo home run, doubled and knocked in two with a single; and Nick Constant managed a two-run double and scored twice.
Joey DiPietro added a double and a run, and Jacob Tyger singled twice and scored once.
"We were definitely hitting better at the beginning of the game," manager DiPietro said. "I think we got a little complacent with the big lead. But as they started to chew back into the game, we battled right back and stayed on top."
Punxsy led 9-2 after 2 1/2-innings, but St. Marys scored five unanswered runs to cut the deficit to 9-7. Punxsy added an insurance run in the sixth and held on.
"The boys continue to battle in those late innings," DiPietro said. "A couple errors cost us some runs and brought them back in the game, but they didn't get their heads down."
Riley pitched three innings for the win. He gave up five runs on six hits. Graham allowed one run during 1 2/3-innings in relief before Ambler shut the door in the fifth and sixth innings.
Punxsy will head to DuBois for the second time in five days Thursday, and DiPietro has an idea of what has to happen in order for his team to surmount DuBois this time. If Punxsy wins Thursday, a coin toss will decide which team plays host to Friday's game.
"Obviously, we have to play better than what we played here. We learned some things playing them the last time, and I hope that we're able to capitalize on what we learned, play a little smarter and pitch a little smarter," DiPietro said. "God willing, we get another game back here (in Punxsy) and take it right to the wire."