PUNXSUTAWNEY — Despite notching only three hits in six trips to the plate, Punxsy's 13- and 14-year old sPunxsy VFW All-Star team took advantage of six walks by Clearfield pitchers to score six runs and win 6-2 in the opening game of its round-robin tournament Monday night in Punxsutawney.
"You don't always need a hit to get the guy across the plate," Punxsy manager Doug Mesoraco said. "We had some quality at bats where we were looking for certain pitches, and if they weren't throwing the ball across the plate, we were obviously going to take the walks. In those situations, we had some guys at the plate who put the ball in play and did what they needed to do."
Punxsy got the scoring started in the bottom of the first inning after starting pitcher Brycen Paulinellie retired Clearfield in order with a little help from his defense catching Cole Kephart stealing after he was hit by a pitch.
Punxsy's leadoff hitter TJ Petro singled, advanced to third on a groundout by Dakota Byers and scored on a passed ball to get Punxsy on the board.
Punxsy led 1-0 after the first inning.
Petro was removed from the game in the top of the second inning and had to leave the facility to seek medical attention when he blocked a pitch in the dir,t injuring his hand.
With Paulinellie keeping Clearfield off the board for the next two innings, as well, Punxsy added to its lead in the bottom of the third inning.
Ethan Ambler led off the inning for Punxsy and was hit by a pitch. Matt Griffith singled, moving Ambler to second.
Lance Pennington, hitting in the leadoff spot after Petro exited the game, reached base on an attempted sacrifice bunt when the pitcher slipped and was unable to cleanly field the bunt, loading the bases for Punxsy.
Ambler scored on a ball hit sharply past the third baseman by Paulinellie. Griffith and Byers scored on bases-loaded RBI walks by Reuban Taylor and Brandon Blose, respectively, pushing Punxsy's lead to four runs.
Clearfield answered with its only two runs of the contest in the top of the fourth.
Eric Sellers and Josh Kennedy led off with a pair of singles, and Sellers was able to score on a throwing error by Punxsy first baseman Ambler, one of four errors for Punxsy's defense.
"We had a couple lapses on defense, but for the most part we made the plays when we really had to," Mesoraco said.
Kennedy scored on an RBI groundout by C.J. Gathagon, but Paulinellie was able to retire Clearfield's No. 9 hitter to retire the side and avoid any further damage.
Punxsy added its final two runs in the bottom of the fifth when Pennington led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a passed ball.
Pennington scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Blose, and then Byers scored while Clearfield tried to retire Taylor in a rundown. Taylor made it safely back to first but was caught stealing to end the inning.
Both of Punxsy's pitchers were efficient and effective from the mound. Paulinellie pitched 5 2/3-innings before reaching his pre-determined pitch limit. He allowed two runs on six hits and struck out eight.
Byers relieved Paulinellie and pitched 1 1/3-innings of shutout baseball, allowing one hit, walking three and fanning two.
"At any level, pitching and defense are the keys to winning the game," Mesoraco said. "We had great pitching. Both pitchers came in and threw strikes."
Though his team was credited with four errors, Mesoraco said that their gloves did well to stop a few rallies, including a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning.
"We made the plays when we had to. We got a nice running catch in the outfield with some guys on base to squash a potential rally there," Mesoraco said.
Punxsy looks to follow tonight's performance with another win when they take on Curwensville Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in Punxsutawney before going on the road Friday to Philipsburg.
Punxsy wants to play well in the qualifying tournament, but because it is the host for the state tournament, it also gets an automatic bid.
"I think we're on track to be competitive at states," Mesoraco said. "We always want to win, but we definitely want to stay competitive."