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Punxsutawney Comes up Just Short of Trip to PIAA Class 3A Title Game for Third Year in a Row Powered by N. Washington Rodeo

HOMER CITY, Pa. – For the third consecutive season, Punxsutawney’s season came to a close in the PIAA semifinals.

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Another banner year for the Chucks came up just short of a trip to the Class 3A championship, but WPIAL champion Avonworth held off the Chucks for a 5-3 win.

“To borrow a line from Mike Tomlin, the standard is the standard,” said Punxsutawney coach Mike Dickey. “Obviously there’s no guarantees and getting to this point is just a tremendous accomplishment no matter what team you are. I don’t care if you have all your guys back or if you have nobody back. It’s hard to win a playoff game, and we’ve won six of them in the last three years. This round, for whatever reason, it’s tough. It shows you how hard it is to get there.”

                  

Avonworth led 3-1 going to the seventh inning, and Brandon Sapolsky singled with one out and, a walk to Jack Dolan and an error allowing Hunter Blackson to reach loaded the bases with two outs.

Sapolsky raced home on a wild pitch that didn’t get too far past Punxsutawney catcher Cooper Hallman and Mason Metz was intentionally walked to set up a force at any base with two outs. Punxsy pitcher Coy Martino, who came on in relief of starter Parker Stahlman in the seventh, hit Cooper Scharding to force in the fifth run.

That fourth run proved to be critical.

After getting a groundout to start the seventh, Avonworth pitcher Jacob Hanny, who pitched 4 ⅔ innings of relief, induced a grounder from Donnie Bender, who reached on an error, but was ruled out when the first base umpire ruled that he made a move toward second base and was tagged out.

Dickey came out to argue to no avail.

                          

“We disagreed,” Dickey said.

Punxsy didn’t quit, however. Maddox Hetrick singled, Hallman was hit by a bitch and Nevin Day singled to load the bases. Martino then ripped a 2-run double to right field, cutting the lead to 5-3 and putting runners on first and second. Stahlman hit a line drive on the very next pitch, but it carried out to right fielder Alex Rowe for the final out.

“It sort of felt like the opposite of the last two years where we had leads and couldn’t add on and it ended up hurting us,” Dickey said. “It almost felt like it was going to run that script. We just didn’t put good at bats together in the middle innings.”

Stahlman threw 25 pitches and gave up three runs in the first inning on an RBI single from Metz and a 2-run single from Scharding.

That’s all Stahlman gave up, however, putting up five consecutive scoreless innings after the first.

               

“Parker didn’t have his best today I don’t think,” Dickey said. “They’re a good hitting team. He left some balls up in the first inning and they took advantage. But he’s gutty and he’s a battler. He kept us in the game and that was huge. He’s been a rock. It’s a pleasure calling games for him, because he usually executes what you call. To hold them at three for five, put up five more zeroes, what more can you ask? You can’t throw a shutout every day.”

Hanny came on in relief after Scharding hurt his arm in the third, and almost immediately uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Martino, who walked with two outs, to score, this coming after a single from Stahlman.

Hanney gave up two runs in 4 ⅓ to get the win, allowing five hits and striking out three without issuing a walk.

“He was mixing a good change in there and we popped some balls up,” Dickey said. “Balls that were hit on the screws were hit right at people and hung up. That’s baseball.”

Stahlman went six innings, allowing three runs on seven hits, striking out six without issuing a walk.

Avonworth will face Neumann-Goretti in the state championship after their 11-1, 5-inning win over Trinity. That game will be played at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park at 1:30 p.m. on Friday.

                       

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