CRANBERRY — Punxsy's 10- and 11-year old Little League baseball All-Star team lost its first two games in two weeks over the weekend at the sectional tournament in Cranberry and was eliminated from competition for the state title.
Punxsy was scheduled to play Harbor Creek Friday night in Cranberry, but the game was cancelled after being delayed part way through the first inning due to inclement weather, and the rematch was scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. Since no innings were completed, the game started over with a fresh slate.
After the coin toss determined that Punxsy would be the home team, visiting Harbor Creek wasted no time getting their bats in gear.
Harbor Creek brought 13 hitters to the plate in the top of the first. The umpire had a small strike zone, and Harbor Creek took advantage of seven walks by Punxsy starting pitcher Brandon Matthews. By the middle of the first inning, Punxsy trailed 8-0 before it even came to the plate, and trailing seemed to take the air right out of Punxsy's sails.
"The boys were really down," Punxsy manager Brad Gigliotti said. "We had done that to other teams, but now we were on the other end of it. We're better than that, you know, better than the score shows. It should have been closer than that, but being down eight in the first inning makes it really difficult to bounce back."
Harbor Creek starting pitcher Tyler Passmore retired Punxsy quickly in the bottom of the first, allowing just one baserunner when Austin McKendree walked. McKendree moved to second on a groundout by Matt Blose but was stranded at second.
Harbor Creek scored four more runs in the top of the second, pushing its lead to 12 and chasing Matthews from the game after he reached his maximum pitch count.
Brandon McGee relieved Matthews and went the rest of the way for Punxsy.
Punxsy's offense continued to struggle against Harborcreek's second and third pitchers, Lucas Fulmer and Linden Hoover, who each pitched an inning of no-hit baseball.
"Their first two pitchers were probably the best we've seen," Gigliotti said. "I'm not taking anything away from St. Marys, DuBois or any of the other teams we played, but that is just an absolutely great team."
Harbor Creek added seven runs in the third and four more in the fourth to push its total to 23. Punxsy added two runs in the bottom of the fourth off Harbor Creek's fourth pitcher of the day, Nick Oosterkamp. Carl Medsger walked and McGee followed with a single. Tyler Richardson walked to load the bases, and Matthews and Colton Roken each had RBI walks.
Punxsy's rally came to an end with a groundout to the third baseman, though, ending the game, 23-2, via the ten-run rule.
Sunday was a new day for Punxsy with a new opponent in line in the losers' bracket final, where it met up with Franklin, who had also been sent to the losers' bracket by Harborcreek last Thursday. But Punxsy was taken down by Franklin, 10-2.
Franklin was the visiting team, and it jumped out to an early lead in the top of the first when Dylan Clark was hit by a pitch and Conner Curran drove a fastball over the fence in center field.
Punxsy starting pitcher Tyler Richardson worked out of a jam, though, to keep the damage to two runs.
Punxsy answered with a run of its own, making the score 2-1, in the bottom of the inning when Blose walked and scored on an RBI double by Alexander Neal.
Richardson retired Franklin in the top of the second without allowing any runs, and Punxsy threatened again in the bottom of the second.
Tyler Getch led off with a double to the fence in left-center field, but Getch was thrown out at home trying to score on a single by Roken. Roken was thrown out trying to advance to second, as well. Franklin scored four in the top of the third and added another in the top of the fourth before Richardson had to be removed at his pitch count limit.
Matt Greenblatt came on in relief and pitched 1 2/3-innings, allowing one run on four hits.
Punxsy's Carl Medsger gave the team something to smile about in the bottom of the fifth inning when he hit his first-ever home run, a line drive shot that cleared the fence in right-center field.
"Carl's home run was definitely the highlight today," Gigliotti said. "He earned it too. He usually comes off the bench, and he's always smiling and always has a great attitude. At this age, that's what you're trying to teach these kids."
Gigliotti and his coaching staff met with the players for a long meeting after the game telling the team how proud they were.
"We've been together for five weeks now, every day," he said. "This is a great bunch of kids, and we made a great run. We ended up in the top 16 teams in the state, so I told them to be proud of themselves."