Punxsy splits a pair in 15/16 VFW action

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Sunday afternoon, the Punxsy VFW 15- and 16-year-old team hosted Cumming Motors of Altoona for a morning-afternoon double header, and after picking up a thrilling win in the first game, Punxsy fell in the second to earn a split.

Despite trailing 4-3 entering the final inning of the first game, Punxsy's squad bounced back to manufacture a pair of seventh-inning runs to earn a 5-4, walk-off victory.

The come-from-behind inning started with a pair of back-to-back walks by Punxsy's Scott Thompson and Ruben Taylor.

Cumming battled back to strike out the next two Punxsy hitters, but with two outs, Punxsy scored both runs to earn the exciting victory.

Thompson scored on a passed ball, and Ethan Ambler put the ball in play — forcing the second baseman to make a play on it. When he couldn't, Taylor crossed the plate to give Punxsy the victory.

Things had started off well for Punxsy right off the bat, as leadoff hitter Anthony Faulk doubled to start the game. After a pop out to shortstop, Bryson Paulinellie reached base via a walk.

Faulk and Paulinellie each stole a base, advancing them to third and second, respectively, and both were plated on a two-RBI single by Cory Geer.

Punxsy's offense managed to produce its third run in the second, with Matt Burkett and Christian Falgout singling and Burkett coming around to score.

After that, though, Cumming chipped away and silenced Punxsy's bats until the bottom of the seventh.

Unfortunately for Punxsy, though, the second game didn't go as well, and the visitors earned a 7-3 victory.

A large contributing factor to the second-game defeat, though, was that Punxsy lost some of its players, who had been called up to play for the elder team in Senior Legion action, leaving Punxsy with just seven players — a number not even large enough to field an entire team.

In the spirit of getting another game in and gaining more valuable experience, though, Cumming's coaching staff agreed to field a pair of outfielders for Punxsy so the squads could play a shortened game — in a sense, dividing up teams as it used to be done at regular pickup games.

Cumming Motors jumped out of the gates, scoring three runs off Punxsy starter Zach Bevak.

Ethan Lewis sparked the rally with a double, and Mike Mock and Jay Stern each walked to load the bases.

No. 5 hitter Cole Kreider grounded into a fielder's choice, but with some good hustle down the line, he just barely beat the throw to first to avoid a double play, allowing Lewis to score.

After nearly earning the third out on the potential double play ball, Punxsy allowed two more runs on a two-RBI double by Derek Cursio before Bevak struck out Craig Hewitt to retire the side with Punxsy trailing 3-0 coming to bat.

Punxsy's leadoff hitter, Dakota Thomas, did his part in his first at-bat, drilling a pitch down the left field line, and Taylor took a walk to put runners on the corners.

But Paulinellie flew out to shallow center field, and with Thomas trying to score, center fielder Lewis threw a strike to retire him at the plate, and Punxsy's scoring threat ended just as quickly as it had started.

With Bevak reaching his pitch count for the day, Taylor took to the mound for the second. Despite an E-5 and a single, he got out of the jam with no further damage done, and Punxsy came in and scored a pair to make things interesting again.

The home squad batted around — albeit with eight hitters in the lineup — in the second, scoring two runs and leaving the bases loaded to cut the lead to 3-2.

Bevak started things with a walk, and after a strikeout, Shane Little pulled off a half-swinging, half-bunting, one-handed infield single to advance Bevak to second.

Adam Badorrek, a Cumming player who was filling in for one of Punxsy's openings, flew out deep to left, but Punxsy put together a hit and two walks to plate its two runs.

Thomas started it with a single, with Bevak having to stop at third, to load the bases, then Taylor and Paulinellie each walked to earn one RBI before Hunter Hickok struck out to end the threat with the bases packed.

Punxsy's bats again went silent over the next three innings, and Cumming added on to its lead with two in the third and a pair in the fourth. In the third, it was Badorrek helping out his original team with an RBI single, and Alex Irica following with an RBI single of his own to plate Badorrek.

And in the fourth, Jay Stern drove in Lewis on an RBI groundout to short, and Mock scored on a passed ball to give the visitors their seventh run. In the fifth, Punxsy's defense turned a nifty 4-6-3 double play to give itself some momentum heading into the final half inning, but the only run Punxsy could earn came with the help of two Cumming errors.

Hickok reached base after a swinging third strike skipped to the backstop, moved to second on a groundout by Bevak, took third on a wild pitch and scored when, with two outs, a miscommunication between the shortstop and left fielder allowed a ball off Ambler's bat to fall in and out of their gloves.

With the score cut to 7-3, though, closer Stern managed a strikeout to end the threat and the game.