PUNXSUTAWNEY — Things looked bleak for the Punxsy Fezell Enterprises Junior Legion baseball team when the Indiana Lions scored eight runs in the top of the fourth inning, but Punxsy bounced back with six runs of its own and held Indiana scoreless for the final three frames to win 12-8 Wednesday in Punxsutawney.
"We got a little lackadaisical in that inning, but we buckled down and got things done," Punxsy manager Mike Klingensmith said. "These guys have done that all year. We started off the season with a loss, then we won a few, and then we lost three in a row. We got together as a team and said, 'We have got to play, or we're going to be sitting come playoffs.' We finished with just four losses, and we're playing good ball, so I told them we can't quit now."
Not quitting is a theme for this year's team, and playing to the end was how Punxsy managed to win Wednesday's game, too.
Punxsy jumped out to an early 6-0 lead in the first three innings while starting pitcher Christian Falgout held Indiana hitless for three frames.
Punxsy managed two runs in the bottom of the first. Leadoff hitter Alex Bevak reached base on an error, stole second, and scored on an RBI triple by Cory Geer.
Geer scored during the next at-bat when Ty Zimmerman drove him in with an RBI single between the shortstop and third baseman.
Indiana starting pitcher Matt Griffith was able to shut Punxsy down and keep the deficit at two runs, but Punxsy put the bats back in gear in the home half of the third, scoring four runs on three hits, and getting some help from Indiana, which committed three fielding errors and a throwing error.
Punxsy saw its comfortable lead slip through its hands in the fourth inning, though. Indiana brought 14 batters to the plate and scored eight runs in its half of the frame.
Grant Schrecengost jump-started the offense with a leadoff triple to right-center field and scored on an RBI groundout to second base by Nathan Shirley.
Falgout struggled with his control and ended up walking three batters in a row before being relieved by Zach Bevak.
"Christian just got tired," Klingensmith said. "We got one quick out, and I kept asking him, 'Can you get through this?' Well, obviously we didn't get through it, but he did a really good job for us."
Bevak struggled with his control, as well, and ended up walking in two runs and allowing an RBI single to Cory Hotchkiss before forcing pinch-hitter Izaak Gray to fly out to left field to retire the side. Indiana led 8-6 at that point.
"Zach got thrown into the fire for us, and after it got like that, I told the guys, 'It's time to go play ball and finish this,'" Klingensmith said.
Punxsy's players buckled down from that point forward and put on their rally caps in the bottom of the fourth, answering with six runs of their own on six hits.
Alex Bevak started the bottom of the fourth just as the top of the fourth had started with a triple of his own and quickly scored on a passed ball, making the score 8-7.
Michael Klingensmith walked, and Geer singled, putting two men on base for Punxsy.
Punxsy regained the lead for good on a double down the third base line by Zimmerman, scoring both Klingensmith and Geer.
Punxsy added three more insurance runs when Zimmerman scored on a groundout to short by Matt Burkett, a double-steal scoring Burkett, and an RBI single by Will Curtis.
The insurance runs would prove unnecessary, as Burkett entered the game and threw three shutout innings to seal the win for Punxsy.
Though Wednesday's game was the final regular season matchup for Punxsy, it is looking forward to the Junior Legion playoffs, which begin with a home game Friday night.
"It's good to be at home for that first game," manager Klingensmith said.
"If we can get the job done that first game, it'll take a lot of pressure off for us. We just plan on taking it one game at a time."
Punxsy finished the regular season on a high note by winning 13 games in a row, after going 5-4 in its first nine games.
"I'm proud of these boys. They played really hard and they battled back all year," Klingensmith said.
Punxsy hopes to extend the winning streak to 14 Friday when it opens the playoffs.