Lady Chucks' comeback comes up just short

PUNXSUTAWNEY — In a game that saw a number of zeroes on the scoreboard — 12 to be exact — it was a pair of big half innings that told the offensive story in Punxsy's varsity softball game against State College Friday in Punxsutawney.

Unfortunately for the Lady Chucks, their big inning came up just short of matching State College's, and they fell 4-3 to the Little Lions.

One of the things that stood out about State College's big inning — the third, during which it scored four runs — was that while the Little Lions had three hits, Punxsy also helped them with a pair of fielding errors.

"We just didn't make the plays," Punxsy head coach Alan Pifer said after the game. "Our defense, in the past few games, had been a strength for us, and today, it let us down a bit. They didn't even have an earned run. Like any team out there, if you don't make the plays, it's tough to win."

State College's four-run inning was jump started by Michaela Rittenhouse earning the first hit of the game off Punxsy starter Randa Depp, who had a solid outing despite being charged with the loss.

The next Little Lion hitter, Sarah Bastian, attempted to sacrifice Rittenhouse to second, and after putting down a good bunt, a fielding error allowed her to reach, as well.

Depp struck out the next hitter she faced, but an errant throw into right field on the next ball put in play by leadoff hitter Cory Marfitt allowed the first run to score.

Megan Robert dropped an RBI single in just behind first-baseman Janie-Depp Hutchinson, who was able to get a glove on the ball while spinning toward it but couldn't quite make the catch.

Depp forced No. 3 hitter Shayarah Simco into a groundout, looking Marfitt back to third before throwing her out, but a two-RBI single by Henderson gave the Little Lions what would prove to be the game-winning run.

And while the final score showed three Punxsy runs, it really took the Lady Chucks until the seventh inning to string a few hits together, as State College pitcher Jess Henderson kept them in check with six shutout innings.

"Coupled with our defensive miscues is our hitting," Pifer said. "It's just not there. We worked hard on it yesterday, and I'm really surprised it is like it was. I hope we get it squared away, because we have three games again next week."

The seventh was the one inning the Lady Chucks managed to string some hits together and plate a few runners.

Pinch-hitter Ashley Wall started the rally with a leadoff walk — Punxsy's only walk of the game — but Henderson answered with a strikeout for the first out of the inning.

Lauren Ball singled for her third hit of the game to put two runners on for leadoff hitter Chelsea Engeholm.

Engeholm put the ball in play, and the shortstop misplayed it, allowing it to hop into center field.

Wall came around to score on the play, and with the center fielder throwing the ball home, both Punxsy base runners advanced, as well.

Ashley Bacha re-entered the game to pinch hit for a second time and drove a rope right back up the gut to plate Ball and move Engeholm to third.

Sydney Phillips, Punxsy's No. 3 hitter, drove Engeholm in with a sacrifice to left, but Bacha was forced to stay at first base on the throw in.

Johnna Depp — the potential go-ahead run — came to the plate, but Henderson forced her to ground into a fielder's choice to the second baseman to end the threat and the game.

"It was the same thing from the DuBois game," Pifer said. "We waited until late and loaded up the bases there, but we couldn't come through. But I will say this, it was nice to see them not give up. I think I said the same thing after last game, but the only bright side to this whole scenario is that it's not happening as we're heading into the playoffs."

Despite the late rally, Pifer said he hopes to figure out the Lady Chucks' hitting woes as they head into another busy schedule next week.

"Maybe it's a matter of confidence right now," he said. "Even some of the girls who had been drilling the ball for us earlier in the year, right now, just seem like their confidence is down right now. Monday's game, we weren't sharp, and Tuesday, we were even less sharp at the plate. Today, it just continued. Some of it is probably mechanics, but I just think a lot of it is confidence."

One Lady Chuck, though, has been hitting the ball well lately and continued to do so Friday.

Ball was 3-for-3 — totaling half of Punxsy's hits and rolling over the top of the order each time she appeared at the plate from the No. 9 hole — including a rope that caught chalk down the third base line that kept a fifth-inning rally going for the Lady Chucks.

"It was very nice to see that," Pifer said. "She keeps hitting like that, there's a very good chance she won't be in that No, 9 spot for very long. She came off the bench for us at DuBois and got a hit, and now went 3-for-3 today. There's one girl now who is showing us some confidence at the plate. Now, we just hope some of her teammates catch on to it."

In the fifth, Punxsy received some help from State College when Savanna Hallman hit a ball with some spin on it. When the ball hit in front of State College's shortstop, she misplayed it, and Hallman reached safely.

After Tori Martin grounded into a fielder's choice, Ball's single put runners on first and second for Engeholm, who singled to load them.

Henderson ended the threat, though, by striking out two consecutive hitters.

In addition to Ball, Bacha, Engeholm and Johnna Depp each had singles for Punxsy.

From the circle, Randa Depp threw a complete game, allowing just four runs on five hits — none of which were earned. She walked one and struck out five.

The Lady Chucks will be back in action Monday on the road against the Brookville Lady Raiders.