PUNXSUTAWNEY — Brodi Lowmaster's powerful pitching and John J Fisher Post 62 of Punxsutawney's lethal lineup were on display Tuesday night at Rich Kuntz Memorial Field in Punxsutawney.
Lowmaster struck out nine through five innings, and both Tyler Skerkavich and Braedon Pennington hit convincing home runs during Punxsy's 13-2 victory over the Clearfield Chiefs in the first round of the Jefferson County American Legion baseball playoffs.
With the win, Punxsy (13-4) is right where it wants to be — in the winners' bracket final with DuBois. DuBois beat Brookville, 5-4, Tuesday and will host Punxsy at 6 p.m. Thursday at Showers Field.
Last year, Punxsy had to fight through the losers' bracket before it beat DuBois in the first of two championship games. However, DuBois came back to win the if-necessary championship game during a 15-14 thriller at Showers Field that was capped by Jordan LaBue's walk-off single.
While remembering what happened last season, Punxsy manager Mike Dickey knows how important Thursday's game will be, even if the losing team's season doesn't end under the tournament's double-elimination format.
"Obviously, you want to get the first one. Whoever has to beat the other guy twice (in a row), that makes it tough," Dickey said. "Twice in a row, you don't want to have to do that, like we (tried to do) last year. That first one's going to be important."
Pennington, an experienced left-hander who is playing in his last season of Legion ball, is scheduled to toe the rubber for Punxsy.
"Any time Braedon's on the mound, we're obviously confident," Dickey said. "We have a quality team, and they have a quality team. It's going to come down to who makes the fewest mistakes and whoever gets the timliest hits."
Tuesday, Lowmaster provided Punxsy with a quality start against Clearfield (12-14-1), which will host Brookville at 6 p.m. Thursday in the losers' bracket semifinal. Lowmaster took a no-hitter into the fourth inning and allowed single runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
Lowmaster walked three and gave up four hits during his five-inning effort. Five of the final six outs he recorded were strikeouts.
Ty Zimmerman led Punxsy with two hits and three runs. He hit an RBI single during the third inning. Skerkavich's only hit was a two-run blast over the tall fence in center field during the fourth inning, and Pennington added a two-run shot that cracked off the tree beyond the left-field fence during the fifth. Pennington also drew two walks and scored three runs.
"It was nice to see that," Dickey said about the home runs. "It's good to see instant offense like that — the pitcher's best friend, next to a double play."
Punxsy scored 12 runs between the third and fifth innings. Joe Pisano's lone hit was a two-run single during the third inning,
Dom Bevak lined an RBI single as a pinch hitter during the fifth inning, and Spencer Levy walked in Zimmerman during Punxsy's five-run third.
Sixteen Punxsy players had at least one at-bat. Ten Punxsy players had a hit or scored a run.
"That's encourging, too, going up against DuBois because you know they're going to hit the ball," Dickey said. "If everybody up and down the order is a little more confident, then we have a better shot."
Taylor Neal pitched two scoreless innings in relief. He struck out three and walked two.
Derek Danver went 1-for-1 with an RBI, a run and two walks to lead Clearfield. Danver singled and scored on Andrew Redden's single during the fourth inning, and Steve Miller doubled and scored on Danver's sacrifice fly during the fifth.
Wes McGary suffered the loss. He gave up nine runs (four earned) on four hits. Clearfield committed six errors during his four innings on the mound.
With the Clearfield game behind it, Punxsy is prepared to change its fortune against DuBois Thursday.
"I think we are definitely wanting this matchup," Dickey said. "You kind of get through the year to get to this point, and these guys have been anticipating this matchup. We're going to be looking forward to it, no doubt."