Punxsy stands between Central and state final

PIAA baseball, softball playoffs

Photo for the Mirror by Chuck Meyers Kaden Fisher (right), Paxton Kling (28) and Central hope to do more celebrating tonight.

While Central has cruised to victory in most of its games this season, including during the postseason, its opponent tonight at Homer City’s First Commonwealth Field at 7 p.m. has been living on the edge.

District 9 champion Punxsutawney nearly did not qualify for the PIAA playoffs when it went to extra innings scoreless against District 5 champion Bedford in a subregional game before winning, 2-0, in eight innings.

Thursday, the Chucks were one out away from their season ending.

Punxsutawney trailed District 10 champion Franklin, 4-3, in the seventh inning before some two-out lightning saved its year.

Josh Tyger beat out and infield single with two outs to tie the game and keep Punxy’s season alive, and Ashton Stonbraker followed with what proved to be the game-winning two-run double.

“We were able to watch Punxy and Franklin play, and I have talked to some coaches that have played them,” Central coach A.J. Hoenstine said. “They sound like a scrappy bunch. Punxsutawney baseball has a rich history, and I’m sure this team we’re going to play plays the game the right way, and we’ll have to be on top of our game.”

Punxy baseball is likely best known for producing former long-time Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco, who led the team to the 2007 PIAA Class 3A state title and won it at Blair County Ballpark before being drafted 15th overall by the Reds later that year.

Isaac London is batting close to .500 for this year’s Punxsutawney team, and Carter Savage has a team-high 22 RBIs.

Ty Helsel, Jonah Snowberger and Jake Detwiler were all listed as options by Hoenstine to pitch tonight’s game for the Scarlet Dragons. The winner of tonight’s game will play either District 3 champion Lancaster Catholic or District 12 champion Neumann-Goretti on Friday at University Park’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park at 1:30 p.m.

Central, which won its own state title in 2017, came close last season before losing in the PIAA semifinals to eventual state champion Tyrone.

“We have talked about this a lot,” Hoenstine said. “We had our hearts broken last year. They fed off that, and it’s not something we shied away from. That hurt, and we remember that hurt. Our practices have been fantastic. We have had great leadership, and we talked about rising back up after that tough emotional defeat in the state semis last year. Baseball is a tough game. You can only take care of so much, but the kids promised each other that they were going to do their part to get us back here. Here we are, and we’re going to leave it all on the field and see what happens.”

C-K’s done it before

When Claysburg-Kimmel’s softball team lost to Southern Huntingdon in the District 6 Class 2A championship game, coach Mike Barbarini had a message for his players that the season wasn’t over.

The Lady Bulldogs had been down that road before, losing the District 6 title game to Bellwood-Antis in 2014 before rebounding to make it all the way to the PIAA Class 1A state final before losing, 4-1, to Minersville.

Now, Claysburg-Kimmel is one game away from getting back to the state final. District 12 champion Conwell-Egan stands in the way.

“We have three goals,” Barbarini said. “We want to improve in the regular season every game. Second, when we make the district playoffs, we want to try and win districts and our third goal is to make a run in the state playoffs. We did all three this year. We didn’t win districts, but I did relay it to them that the last time we went to the state finals was when we finished second in districts.”

Today’s PIAA semifinal is at Cumberland Valley High School and is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

“To come out on top, we’re going to have to hit the ball a little bit better than we did (against South Williamsport), and we’re going to have to play better defense,” Barbarini said. “They were going to hit the ball a little better than South Williamsport did, so we’re going to have to make more plays in the field.”

Conwell-Egan defeated Southern Huntingdon, 7-5, in the quarterfinals. The winner of today’s game will play either Neshannock or Laurel, both from the WPIAL, in Friday’s state final at Penn State University’s Beard Field at 11 a.m.

“(Southern coach) Terri (Lessley) and I are close, and I gave her a call (after the game),” Barbarini said. “She sent me the scorebook, and she told me their first four hitters are real strong, and the pitcher is hittable. We communicated. We were looking forward to playing each other again, and we were jabbing back and forth, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

SUBHED: New standard?

Glendale softball has only been this far once before, in 1992, when the Lady Vikings fell in the PIAA semifinals to Leechburg.

They are hoping to punch their first ticket to the PIAA championship game today at 2 p.m. when they travel to the Milesburg Little League Complex to take on District 4 champion Montgomery.

“They have a very good pitcher, and she has a great rise-ball,” Glendale coach Bruce Vereshack said. “We’re going to have to not chase bad pitches and help her out and hit her pitches in the zone when we get the opportunity.”

Montgomery lost to eventual state champion Tri-Valley by a run in last season’s state playoffs and has a lot of experience back.

Glendale, on the other hand, has been playing with mostly underclassmen.

“With the injury to Hanna Noel about three weeks ago, we’re down to everyone being back next year except our first baseman (Abby Williams),” Vereshack said. “She’s the only senior that is starting.”

With Noel’s injury, freshman Madison Peterson has stepped into a starring role in both the pitching circle and in the batting order.

“I started in junior high eight years ago,” Vereshack said. “I’ve had all these girls, so me stepping up to varsity was nothing different. Maddie Peterson, a freshman, has been pitching all through the playoffs, and to see how she’s developed is special. She’s a freshman that acts like a senior. You just can’t rattle her. She’s really, really tough.”

No matter the result of today’s game, this year’s run has meant a lot to the community. The winner will play either District 10 champion Saegertown or District 9 champion DuBois Central Catholic Thursday at Penn State University’s Beard Field at 11 a.m.

“It means a lot,” Vereshack said. “We had a great crowd at the quarterfinals. There were a lot of people there. It means a good deal to everybody.”


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