Picking up the split: Punxsy needs win today

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsy's Junior Legion team — I-Medical — earned a split in Monday's action at the Western Regional tournament, which the Punxsy squad was hosting, putting itself in a position where it must win at least another game today to move into the top three and advance to states.

I-Medical started the day with a 12-8 win over West Hempfield. Despite a late run by West Hempfield, the host squad earned its berth in the winners' bracket final.

I-Medical started the game, after being named the visiting team, with a one-run first inning.

West Hempfield starter Nick Ross got off to a hot start, retiring leadoff hitter Bryson Paulinellie and No. 2 batter Dakota Thomas, but a two-out walk to catcher Clayton Dale put an I-Medical runner on board.

Then, with the help of a delayed steal and two errors on the same play with Ruben Taylor in the batter's box, Dale scored Punxsy's first run.

Dale broke for second on the delay, catching the West Hempfield squad off guard, and when the throw down skipped into center field, Dale went for third.

The second baseman retrieved the ball, but when he didn't immediately return it to the pitcher, Dale decided to take advantage of the mental blunder and sprinted home to give I-Medical the 1-0 edge.

Punxsy starter Thomas set down West Hempfield in order on three straight fly outs — two of which were pop ups to Dale in foul territory, and Punxsy doubled its lead in the top of the second.

Hunter Hickok led off the inning with a walk, but he was caught stealing second and Shane Little struck out to put Punxsy in a two-out position again. But as it did in the first, the host put up a two-out run.

Brandon Blose smacked a sharp single to left field, and Paulinellie followed it up with a double deep to left to score Blose and put I-Medical up by two.

West Hemfield answered with a pair of two-out runs of its own in the bottom half to knot the game back up.

Jerad Ritson started things off with a single between shortstop and third base, and an error at third base allowed Mike Danko to advance 180 feet to second, putting Ritson at third and a pair in scoring position.

Cory Hegedus walked to load the bases, and Ross helped his own cause with a two-out RBI walk to crack the scoreboard for West Hemfield. Sean Auld followed with an RBI single that evened the score at two, but Hegedus was caught in a rundown after rounding the bag too far, ending the inning.

Punxsy regained its two-run advantage in the top of the third on no hits, a pair of walks and an error.

Dale led off with a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch before Taylor was walked to put two on.

Dakotah Byers grounded into a fielder's choice, retiring Taylor at second, but he stole second to put two in scoring position.

The costly error came on a grounder off the bat of Lance Pennington, and when the second baseman's throw flew high and wide at home, Dale and Byers both came around to score.

West Hempfield continued the back-and-forth in its half of the third, putting up two runs on two hits and two walks.

Robert Fields led off with a single, and a walk to Dominic Mori set up a two-RBI double off the bat of cleanup hitter Erick Loucks.

Loucks was retired at third, but a one-out walk to A.J. Bove forced Thomas out of the game for Paulinellie. With the help of a nice diving catch by Hickok in center, Paulinellie retired the first two he faced, and Punxsy came back to the plate with the score tied at four.

Punxsy scored two more in the fourth on two hits and a walk, but it again received the help of two West Hempfield errors.

Blose led things off and reached on an E5, when the ball slipped under the third baseman's glove. Thomas followed with a one-out single to plate Blose, who had moved up on a fly ball to left.

Thomas stole second and scored on the second E5 of the inning — an overthrow at first on a ball hit by Dale.

With the two-run inning, I-Medical had a 6-4 lead, and after Paulinellie set West Hempfield down in order in the home half of the fourth, Punxsy added on five more by batting around in the fifth.

Hickok started the inning with a seeing-eye single to center, and after he was replaced by pinch runner Ryan Jones, Jones moved to second on a wild pitch.

Little walked to put a pair on again, and Blose drove one to left. The ball was catchable, but after it fell in and out of the left fielder's glove, Jones came in to score.

Paulinellie walked to load the bases, and Dale came through in the clutch with a two-RBI double to left field.

Dale moved up on a sacrifice fly that scored Paulinellie and eventually came in to score on another wild pitch.

A Loucks single was the only hit West Hemfield could muster in the fifth, and I-Medical added another insurance run in the top of the sixth.

Jones, who stayed in the game after entering in the fifth, led off the frame with a single to left and moved up to second on a wild pitch.

Blose walked to put a pair on base, and Paulienellie loaded the bases again with a four-pitch walk.

The final RBI came on a walk issued to Dale, and I-Medical's lead was 12-4.

West Hemfield battled to the last pitch, scoring four runs against Blose over the final two frames, but Punxsy's lead held, and they earned the berth into the title game against the S.W. Jack Sox — their fellow Indiana County League foe.

Unfortunately, Monday evening's contest against Indiana didn't go so well, as Punxsy was eked out in a 4-3 decision to fall to the losers' bracket.

The Sox cracked the scoreboard in the second inning with three runs on singles by Cole Shaffer, Kevin Jack and Chase Kromer, and one I-Medical error played a role in the three-run inning.

I-Medical bounced back with one in the fourth inning — again with the help of an error by the left fielder allowing Pennington to reach safely. Hickok added a single to cut the lead to two runs.

In the top of the fourth, Indiana answered with what would prove to be the game-winning run after Jonah Schall reached safely on an E4 and used some solid base running to score.

A pair of I-Medical runs in the seventh frame made things interesting with Pennington and Hickok each singling and scoring and Thomas adding a single of his own. 4-3 was as close as the contest would come, though, and with the loss, Punxsy fell to the losers' bracket, where it will play at 4 p.m. today.