Timely defense, plate patience push Punxsy to Section 1 title, States
CORRY — Make it two! That's two banners for the 9- and 10-year-old softball All-Star team and two Punxsy teams who this season made it to the state level in the Little League All-Star tournaments.
Thursday night, Punxsy picked up a 13-3, four-inning victory over Mid-East/Titusville, which it had defeated in the opening round in a 2-1 contest, to claim the Section 1 title and earn a berth to States — which will be held next week in Thorndale, Pa.
Punxsy managed just one hit on the night, but a lot of control issues from the opposing pitchers — Mid-East/Titusville used three different hurlers — and some patience at the plate led to a productive night on the scoreboard for Punxsy.
And while it wasn't the "prettiest" game they've played this year, Punxsy head coach Brad Gigliotti said his girls are excited to be bound for states.
"They've very excited to have won the title," he said. "This is going to be the experience of a lifetime for them."
Kendal Johnston started out for Punxsy in the circle in the top of the first, and after walking the bases full with no outs, she and her defense managed to get out of the jam unscathed.
Punxsy's patience at the plate kicked in in the bottom of the first, as Punxsy scored six runs without even picking up a hit.
Holly Hartman, Johnston, Abby Gigliotti, Grace Hall and Riley Presloid all reached base via walks and ended up coming around to score, and the lone Punxsy hitter who reached by putting a bat on the ball — Abbi Riskus — also came in to score.
So, despite notching zero hits, Punxsy managed to open a six-run lead.
In the top of the second, Johnston walked a pair and gave up a hit to load the bases again with no outs, bringing Riskus to the circle to relieve her.
Riskus came on and made a great effort, once again relying on some help from her defense, to keep Mid-East/Titusville off the board again.
The first out came on a fielder's choice, where the Punxsy infield retired the lead runner at home, and the second came on an impressive catch by Brianna Hoover in left field. Hoover even managed to get the ball back into the infield in time to prevent the runner from tagging up and scoring.
Then, on what Gigliotti called "one of the plays of the game," Allie Doverspike scooped up what would have been a two-RBI single to right field and threw to first to retire the runner on her way to the bag, ending the inning and keeping a zero in the visitors' column.
"That play was a really phenomenal play, and it was probably one of the plays of the game," Gigliotti said. "I'm big on game-changing plays, and that was a total heads-up play that left the bases loaded for the second time straight."
In the bottom of the second, Punxsy extended its lead to seven, as Elliot Ferrent walked and came the whole way around on walks to score.
In the top of the third, Taylor Kerr reached on a single, and Alexis Doolittle walked to put two on. Both Mid-East/Titusville runners ended up scoring on a hit to left field, cutting the Punxsy lead to 7-2.
Punxsy bumped it back up a peg with a single tally in the bottom of the third, when Johnston, who had walked to reach base, came in to score on a single to right-center by Ferrent — Punxsy's only hit of the night.
Mid-East/Titusville made it 8-3 in the top of the fourth when Maddie Loge, who had reached base on an error, came in to score with the assistance of two other errors on the home team.
Punxsy put an end to the game in the bottom of the fourth, though, with five runs on no hits, as no outs were even recorded.
Riley Presloid reached on an error to start it off, and four consecutive players walked and trotted the whole way around the bases via free passes behind her in Riskus, Sarah Weaver, Hartman and Doverspike.
As Doverspike crossed the plate, Punxsy's 13-3 advantage brought the game to a close via the 10-run rule and gave Punxsy the Section 1 crown.
"It feels great to win, but we all know that we definitely have to pick it up a notch for States," Gigliotti said. "That was one of our sloppier games, even though we only gave up three runs. But we know we have a lot of work to do, and we'll get to practice for a few days before heading to States. But we're very excited to be going."
Punxsy will play three games in pool play at States, beginning on Wednesday and running through next Friday. The semi-finals and finals will then take place through that weekend for the top teams in each pool.