Little Leaguers win, force rubber match at home Sunday with DuBois

DUBOIS — After earning home field advantage as the king seed in a thrilling, 3-2 victory Monday, DuBois' Little League softball All-Stars knew they'd be getting everything Punxsy had to throw at them Friday night in the first of what the visiting squad hoped would be a two-game weekend.

Punxsy got its wish, defeating DuBois 11-3 and earning a rubber match on Punxsy's turf Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. for the title of District X champion — even though the victory didn't guarantee a home game.

"We finally won a coin toss," Punxsy head coach Mike Ishman said. "It wasn't automatic, but we won this one, and it's great that we get a game at home to play for the championship."

The coin flip certainly wasn't the only thing that went Punxsy's way, though, as Punxsy scored often against DuBois pitcher Sarah Snyder — a different pitcher than Punxsy saw during its last trip to DuBois.

Last game, it was Katelyn Bender who went head-to-head with Punxsy's workhorse, Alli Ishman.

Ishman has thrown the majority of Punxsy's innings in this tournament, and she pitched another gem Friday night.

"Alli had another great game for us," coach Ishman said. "She pitched well, and the girls played solid defense behind her."

Despite being the team that had to travel, Punxsy was named the home team after the coin toss, and Ishman got off to a good start, setting DuBois' side down in order in the first on a strikeout of her mound opponent Snyder and a pair of 5-3 putouts.

In the bottom half, Punxsy leadoff hitter Tessa Winebark reached on a walk, and after a pair of back-to-back singles by Ishman and cleanup hitter Danielle Bowser, Punxsy was in business with a 1-0 lead.

Ishman faced the minimum in the second, as well, despite allowing a leadoff walk to Bender. Ishman forced a 6-3 groundout off Gabi Wayne's bat, and Bender was doubled off on a flyout by Kacie Means to end the frame.

The home half of the second inning was the only inning it batted that Punxsy didn't manage to plate a run.

Jordyn Powell got things started for Punxsy with a leadoff single, and she moved up to third after a wild pitch and a stolen base.

McKenzie Atcheson also reached on a one-out walk, but both runners were stranded, as Snyder worked out of the jam with a pop up to third and a 1-3 putout.

Ishman walked Rachel Gildersleeve to lead off DuBois' half of the third, but retired the next three she faced on grounders to the infield to maintain the shutout and Punxsy's 1-0 lead.

Punxsy started to break it open in the third with the help of an error by DuBois. Morgan VanLeer reached on the E6, and Ishman followed with a single.

VanLeer and Ishman would both come around to score on back-to-back one-out singles by Morgan Adamson and Kate Horner, who had entered for Powell as a pinch hitter.

Adamson also came around to score for Punxsy, setting the lead at four runs and giving the home team some breathing room.

Ishman hit Laura Fatula with a pitch in the fourth for DuBois' only baserunner, but she worked out of it to strand Fatula at third, and Punxsy put up another three-spot in the fourth to put it ahead 7-0.

Punxsy's three runs came on just one hit with the help of three DuBois errors allowing Kylee Lingenfelter, Alli Lunger and Bowser all to reach safely.

Ishman had the only hit of the inning — her third of the game — and Winebark, VanLeer, who reached via a walk, and Ishman all scored for Punxsy.

Two of DuBois' runs came in the home half of the fourth to narrow the deficit to 7-2 with Gildersleeve singling and scoring on a double by Lexi Ray. Ray later scored on a 5-3 putout to plate DuBois' second run, but Ishman forced another groundout to end the inning.

Punxsy piled on four in the fifth for its biggest inning off Snyder, highlighted by singles by Kim Shoemaker, Winebark and Ishman and three Snyder walks, and with a comfortable lead the one run DuBois scored in the top of the sixth — when Fatula reached on an error and scored on a single by Means — was hardly enough to worry the Punxsy squad.

With the score 11-3, Ishman honed in an struck out Gildersleeve for the second out before she retired Ray on a 4-3 putout to end the game and force a deciding game Sunday afternoon.

"The girls played with confidence and excitement," coach Ishman said. "They really left it all out on the field. They were moving, catching everything and making the plays. We didn't get rattled, and they were just fantastic overall. Hopefully, that'll carry into Sunday, and we'll be able to get the District X title."