Punxsy lets finale slip through its hands

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Leading 6-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Punxsy's 13- and 14-year old VFW All-Stars had to be thinking, "Rain, rain go away," as they saw the storm clouds rolling in, but the game was delayed in the fifth inning due to lightning, and after an hour delay, Philipsburg came back and defeated Punxsy 10-8 in the finale of the round-robin Area 6 tournament.

Punxsy's ace, Brycen Paulinellie, was pitching a gem through five innings, allowing no runs on two hits and striking out seven. But after the delay, Punxsy decided better safe than sorry and brought in a new pitcher.

Long delays can lead to muscle stiffness, and pitching after that delay could have been damaging to Paulinellie's arm.

"We figured there was no reason to bring him back in, in that situation," Punxsy manager Doug Mesoraco said. "We went to Dakota (Byers), who had thrown well on Monday for us. The mound was a bit wet, and that just caused us some issues."

Punxsy also suffered from some poor defense in the later innings after going error-free for the first five innings.

"We had some very poor fielding," Mesoraco said. "We probably had five errors in the sixth inning alone, and they came back to make it 6-4."

Punxsy was playing to win, but also had to adjust its strategy, knowing that if Clearfield won its game against Curwensville, the winner of the Area 6 tournament would come down to the number of runs scored against each team.

"We were playing to win at that point," Mesoraco said. "In the seventh, we knew that Clearfield was up five or six to three. They got a few hits here and there, we committed a couple of errors, and we basically fell apart."

Punxsy still held the lead, 6-4, after six innings and needed only three outs to end the game, but Philipsburg took the lead 8-7 and had the bases loaded before Byers could even record an out.

Tyler Geer came on in relief, and ended up getting out of the jam without being charged with a run, but Philipsburg did plate two more runs to push its lead to 10-7.

Punxsy scored a run in the bottom of the frame on a balk and managed to push a runner to third base and bring the tying run to the plate.

Punxsy was unable to score any more runs, though, and the game ended, 8-6.

Punxsy's most productive inning was the bottom of the third when it scored three runs on three hits and took advantage of two Philipsburg errors.

Ruben Taylor led off the inning with a single, and Dakota Byers followed with an RBI double. Byers stole third and scored on Doug Pollack's single.

Pollack scored on a fielder's choice after a throwing error on a double steal.

Mesoraco credited Philipsburg for playing a good game, but also said that having to take Paulinellie out may have cost Punxsy the game.

"They pitched what we will consider their best pitcher," he said. "He threw well. He threw hard and had a nice curveball. We tried to match our ace with theirs, and for five innings, we not only competed, but we had a pretty significant lead. After the rains came, we made the pitching change, and they did not. They went with their ace, and he did the job and finished it out for them."

Despite the loss, Punxsy finished second in the Area 6 tournament, qualifying for the State Tournament which will be held in Punxsutawney July 29-Aug. 1.

As the host, Punxsy will play the late game at 7 p.m. Friday against the Area 2 champion. Clearfield, which won the Area 6 title with a 9-4 win over Curwensville Friday will play the Area 2 runner-up in the opening round of States, Friday.