Punxsy advances to All-Star State Championship

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsy's 13- and 14-year old VFW Teener League All-Stars are one win away from the state championship after defeating Schuylkill County East All-Stars, 10-6, in the winners' bracket championship game Sunday afternoon in Punxsutawney.

With the win, Punxsy advanced to the state championship game against Schuylkill East today at 11 a.m. at Rich Kuntz Memorial Field. If Punxsy wins, it will be state champs, but if Punxsy loses, another game will be necessary to decide the champion. If needed, that game will be played immediately after the first today.

Punxsy was the visiting team, and its first four batters scored in the top of the first inning to give it a 4-0 lead.

Bryson Paulinellie led off the game with a double off the high fence in center field. If the ball were hit to any other part of the park, it could have cleared the fence.

T.J. Petro drove in Paulinellie with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on Ruben Taylor's single.

Dakotah Byers followed with a walk, and both runners later scored on an RBI single by Zach Bevak.

Punxsy added four more runs in the top of the third inning.

Taylor led off with a single and moved to third when the pitcher threw the ball past the first baseman on a pickoff attempt. Blose walked, and Bevak came through again with a two-RBI double.

Bevak scored on an RBI groundout by Matt Griffith, and Doug Pollack, who had reached on a walk, scored before Ryan Jones was tagged out in a rundown to end the inning.

Schuylkill East hit well, scoring one in the second, three in the third, one in the fourth and one in the sixth, but Punxsy seemed comfortable playing with the lead.

Punxsy's final two runs came in the fifth and sixth innings.

Blose scored on an error by the shortstop in the fifth, and Paulinellie scored on an RBI single by Petro after tripling in the sixth.

Punxsy received strong pitching performances from both Petro and Blose. Petro went three innings, allowing four runs on four hits, walking two and striking out four.

Blose pitched the final four innings, allowing two runs on six hits, striking out one and walking one.

"We got great pitching from T.J., and Brandon came in and threw strikes, which is what we were asking for," Punxsy manager Doug Mesoraco said. "Dakotah Byers made some really nice plays defensively at third, too."

Punxsy had advanced to the winners' bracket final with a 10-7 win over Reliance Bank of Altoona Saturday afternoon.

Punxsy won in dramatic fashion, trailing 7-6 entering the final inning and scoring four runs to take a 10-7 lead. Blose entered the game to pitch the seventh, and retired the side in order to earn the win.

"We got a little lax, but the boys responded well and got really pumped up in the top of the seventh," Mesoraco said.

Paulinellie led off the seventh inning for Punxsy with a double, and Petro followed with a sharp liner up the middle that deflected off the pitcher and trickled into right field for a single, scoring Paulinellie.

Petro scored on a wild pitch, and Taylor singled for Punxsy to keep things rolling. Byers walked, and Taylor scored on an RBI single by Blose. Byers later scored on a wild pitch to give Punxsy the edge, 10-7.

Punxsy, the visiting team, led 6-0 after 2 1/2-innings after scoring one in the first, four in the second and one in the third, but Club Altoona scored all seven of its runs in the bottom of the third to take the lead.

The fourth, fifth and sixth innings all went scoreless, setting up the dramatic win for Punxsy.

Altoona's Ben Foose was charged with all four runs in the top of the seventh, and was thus charged with the loss.

Byers started the game for Punxsy and pitched 2 1/3-innings. He was cruising until the third inning, but allowed six runs on just two hits and two walks in the sixth before being replaced by Paulinellie.

Paulinellie pitched 2 1/3-innings, as well, allowing one run on two hits, striking out four and walking two.

Mesoraco looks forward to playing for the state championship in front of the home crowd today.

"You don't play for state championships all that often, so, of course, we're excited, and we're looking forward to the opportunity," he said. "We've got to take one game at a time, though. The kids are really excited about where they've come from to this point."