PUNXSUTAWNEY — Defense should never have an off day, and it was on display on the varsity softball diamond on Wednesday afternoon.
Behind a pair of double plays and various other top glove showings, Punxsy received three timely fifth- inning hits to score the lone run and shutout rival DuBois, 1-0, in Punxsutawney.
“It was a great game, as the players made the plays. A tremendous game to watch, as both sides played very well defensively,” noted Lady Chucks head coach Alan Pifer. “They didn’t beat themselves but we got the break (to score the one run).”
The Lady Chucks made it two foes in a row which they have prevented from scoring after winning at Hollidaysburg, 5-0, on Monday.
In a scoreless game, Punxsy (5-1) was able to push across the day’s lone run in the bottom of the fifth.
Mary Sloniger legged out an infield single to the hole at shortstop. She advanced to second on Chelsea Engeholm’s sacrifice bunt and moved to third on Ashley Bacha’s third single over the DuBois shortstop.
Ashley Walls made it three-straight hits with one to the right side to allow Sloniger to trot in to touch home plate.
On the mound, Bacha gave up the sixth Lady Beavers' hit of the game to start the top of the sixth, before retiring the final six hitters to complete the shutout. The senior pitcher finished with three strikeouts without walking a batter for the victory.
“Ashley did a great job. It may have been the best game I have seen her pitch. She hit locations and had command the entire game,” pointed out Pifer.
At the plate, Bacha accounted for three of the seven Punxsy hits to help her cause.
Walls lined the lone run-scoring single.
Savannah Hallman singled and walked two times. Ivy Phillips and Sloniger had the other two Lady Chucks’ hits.
“Just like Monday, we again had a lot of hard-hit outs. I assured the girls they will start to drop,” said Pifer. “I was also encouraged by the bottom of our order getting hits.”
DuBois showed why it is known for good hitting. The visitors put runners in scoring position three times, but the Punxsy defense was on top of its game.
After one out to begin the game, the Lady Beavers singled but saw the home club turn the first double play of the day. The third batter lined back to Bacha, who flipped to Sarah London at first base for the pair of outs.
DuBois returned the favor with its own double play in the home first.
Phillips and Hallman back-to-back singles to start the second didn’t turn into any tallies, as the next three hitters were retired.
In the home third, Bacha singled with one out. Stephanie Smith pinch ran and moved to second on a Walls free pass. Both runners moved up on a third-strike passed ball. With Ivy Phillips at the plate, Smith was thrown out at home trying to score on a ball to the backstop to keep the game scoreless.
The Lady Beavers threatened again in the top of the fourth. Cheyene McKee saw her drive to left field hit off the top of the fence and come back in play for a double. Sierra McKee stepped in and dropped a single into shallow left center.
With runners on the corners and no outs, DuBois’ Casey Wilcox blistered a line drive, which was snagged out of the air by Sloniger, who fired to London for the double play. Bacha enticed the next visiting hitter to line out to Engeholm at shortstop to retire the threat.
“Our infield defense was really good today. Slongier had some nice plays at second base,” said Pifer.
DuBois put together what would be its final push to score in the top of the fifth frame.
Samantha Snyder walked, and Kaitlyn Beers legged out a single to shortstop. After a popup to third, Punxsy’s Sydney Phillips made a nice running catch in right center field for the second out, before Bacha fanned the DuBois’ leadoff hitter for a second time in the game to end the at bat.
Across the way, the junior varsity affair between the two teams was just as exciting.
Jensen Constantino’s single to short right field drove home Amber Ward with the winning run to give the JV Lady Chucks a 6-5 victory over the Lady Beavers in eight innings.
“Down 5-1, I said to the girls they didn’t have to get all the runs back in one inning. We tied the game in the seventh and won it in the eighth,” explained Lady Chucks’ JV coach Ken Covatch.
Punxsy (6-0) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. The lead turned out to be short-lived.
DuBois scored twice in the second and three times in the third for the 5-1 lead.
The JV Lady Chucks cut into the margin with single tallies in the third and fifth inning to make it 5-3. Punxsy had enough to tie the game at 5 in the home seventh for extra frames.
After holding the visitors scoreless, Ward drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a Bali Primm sac bunt. Anna Horner reached on an error by DuBois when the shortstop’s throw could not be dug out of the dirt.
Following a strikeout for two outs, Constantino looped the game-winning single to short right field to plate Ward for the victory.
Nicole DiPietro went the distance in the circle for Punxsy. She struck out four without a walk in eight innings of work.
“Nicole did a nice job battling back after rough second and third innings. We were also able to play some good defense behind her, as Shaina Painter at shortstop and Anna Horner in center field made some nice plays,” added Covatch.
Painter produced a third of the Lady Chucks' hits with two doubles and a single.
DiPietro and Constantino singled twice apiece. Alyssa Reitz laced a two-bagger, and Kara St. Clair added a hit.
Punxsy will have a day off before traveling for a Friday afternoon game at Central Mountain starting at 4:30 p.m.