JVs falter a bit over weekend, look to finish strong

PUNXSUTAWNEY — After jumping out to an impressive 13-1 start, the Punxsy Chucks JV baseball team faltered over a two-day period with two losses to two very tough opponents.

The first loss came Friday at the hands of State College —a 14-2 defeat.

The Chucks struggled with the sticks Friday, earning only two hits off the bats of Christian Falgout and Dakotah Byers.

Byers' hit came in the sixth and drove in Punxsy's only two runs of the day.

State College scored in four different frames — one in the second, four in the third, three in the fourth and six insurance runs in the seventh.

Matt Burkett pitched five innings, allowing eight runs on 12 hits, walking three and fanning five, and Ty Wasicki came on in relief to pitch two innings. He allowed six runs on six hits, struck out one and didn't walk any.

"They were better than us today," Punxsy head coach Rodney Thompson said of Friday's contest. "We beat them earlier in the year, 6-0, and today was just a reversal of that game. We could not get anything going, and everything they hit turned into base hits and runs. I do not mind losing to a team that is better, and today, State College was the better team."

Saturday, the JVs traveled to St. Marys for a junior varsity tournament, and dropped their second in a row for the first time all season, falling in a 12-7 contest to the Crusaders of Elk County Catholic.

ECC scored six runs in the first and five in the second, "telling the tale for the game," as Thompson put it.

"We had chances to stop the bleeding but failed to make a play or two, which would have ended their big innings," he said. "We racked up 13 hits in the loss and managed seven runs. That should be enough to win any ball game."

All season, the Chucks have been known for their fast starts, and Thompson said ECC's fast start put the Chucks on the other side of the ball — a side they weren't used to.

"We need to do a better job coming out of the box ready to play and setting the tone early," he said. "A pitcher has to have that 'set the tone' mentality, which rubs off on the whole team early in the game. If you give any team a glimmer of hope and confidence early on, they feel they can do whatever they want in any facet of the game. We know how that feels, because we have done that to so many of our opponents this year."

Zach Bevak led the Chucks' offense with a double and a single, and Hunter Hickok, Ethan Ambler and Wasicki each added two base hits for Punxsy.

Byers pitched in with a double, and Burkett, Brandon Blose, Dylan Orcutt and Ben Snyder rounded out the hits total with one single each.

On the defensive side, Orcutt started the game on the mound for the Chucks and earned the loss. He did not record an out before being replaced by Blose, who threw two innings before he was replaced by Hickok. Byers closed out the game for the Chucks.

After dropping to 12-3 in the tournament's first game, though, Punxsy ended the weekend on a high note, eking out a 7-6 win over the host, St. Marys.

All seven Chucks' runs came in the first two innings, then, as Thompson described it, "The bats went cold."

Blose had a pair of hits in the game, and Burkett had a double.

Wasicki, Hickok and Bevak added singles to round out Punxsy's hits for the game.

"We only had six hits against these guys, which was why the game ended up so close," Thompson said. "We just could not put the game out of reach, and they battled back."

Orcutt started and picked up the win, going 5 1/3-innings, giving up five walks and six runs and recording three strikeouts. Byers earned the save by striking out the last batter.

"We were happy to come out on top of this one, but it still didn't give us that warm, fuzzy feeling," Thompson said. "We have some work to do, and have only three games remaining in the season. Coach (Jeremy) Hospodar and I want to see more drive and enthusiasm from these guys.

Some of the spark has fizzled, and we need a leader to keep everyone focused in the dugout and out on the field. We're 13-3, and we want to be 16-3 by the end of the week."

The Chucks were supposed to take their run at improving to 14-3 Monday afternoon, but rain postponed the contest — scheduled against Hollidaysburg — to Friday afternoon in Punxsutawney.

Instead, Punxsy hopes for good weather for a double header Wednesday afternoon against Brookville. Games will begin at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.