St. Marys tops Punxsy behind late surge

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsy scored two runs in the bottom half of the third inning to tie St. Marys, 2-2, but St. Marys went on to score eight runs in the last three innings to win 10-4 in Minor League baseball All-Star action Sunday at Jerry Long Memorial Field in Punxsutawney.

Punxsy's next game will be Thursday, but it will not know which team it will play until Tuesday. St. Marys will go on to face DuBois in the winner's bracket at 6 p.m. Tuesday in DuBois.

In the other portion of the bracket, Brookville beat Fox Township, 11-1 in four innings, and Brockway defeated Reynoldsville/Sykesville, 19-11. Brockway will play Brookville in the other half of Tuesday's winners' bracket games.

The winner of the Reynoldsville/Sykesville-Fox Township game will play Punxsy at 6 p.m. Thursday in the second round of losers' bracket action.

Despite the loss, Punxsy manager Eric Britton was not disappointed with his team's effort.

"The kids made their plays and kept their heads in the game," he said.

Immediately after the loss, Britton gathered his players in the dugout and had nothing but positive things to say to them.

Britton realizes the importance of boosting morale after a tough loss, as the All-Star season isn't over, and there is no time for the players to hang their heads.

"I just told them, 'Keep your heads up,'" Britton said. "We have a game on Thursday, and we're going to show up and give 100 percent. We're going to practice hard the rest of this week to prepare."

Punxsy was off to a strong start from pitcher Derek Huey, who threw two scoreless innings before allowing a two-run home run to Kael Azzato in the top of the third inning. Azzato's home run gave St. Marys a 2-1 lead, as Punxsy had scored one run in the bottom of the second when Logan Johnston was walked and advanced home on three passed balls.

After the home run, Huey faced only one more batter, walking Brady Snyder, and then left the game with what appeared to be a sore arm. Huey had been injured in the second inning while catching a sharp line drive back up the middle off the bat of Nate Beimel, but the arm soreness did not seem to be related to that play.

Dylan Ishman came in to relieve Huey and was able to strike out Alex Fedus. Ishman received some help from shortstop Ethan Blose, who made a fantastic diving catch on a short pop up to strand one runner for St. Marys.

St. Marys' offense exploded for five runs in the fourth and never looked back. Dan Wilmer started it off with a walk, and Jared Groll drove him in with a triple into the left-center field gap. Groll then scored on a Punxsy throwing error.

Alec Bittner then walked and later scored on an RBI double by Azzato.

Ishman hit the next batter he faced and then walked another before getting the final out of the inning on a pop up to third base.

Punxsy started a rally in the bottom of the fourth and scored two runs on a sacrifice fly by Conner Giavedoni and a run-scoring groundout by leadoff hitter Derek Huey, but the rally stopped there. Punxsy went scoreless in its final two at-bats.

St. Marys added one run in the fifth on an RBI single by Brandon Sicheri and added two in the sixth to cap the 10-4 win.

Punxsy's coaches monitored the number of pitches thrown by each of their pitchers today, but Britton was still unsure who will receive the starting nod Thursday.

"We're going to have to take a look at where we are on pitch count and see what arms we have from there," he said.