DUBOIS, Pa. – Survive and advance.
That’s the philosophy of the Punxsutawney baseball team, and that’s exactly what the Chucks did to claim their 19th District 9 baseball title and their second in a row in Class 3A with a 13-5 win over Brookville Monday night at Showers Field in DuBois.
“Survive and advance at this point,” Punxsutawney manager Mike Dickey said. “Our single focus is survive and advance. We have been in enough of these wars to know that is all you got to do. That’s all you got to do. It doesn’t matter if you are the better team that day. If you survive, you get to play again. That is where we are at. It is a one-game season every day.”
Rewatch the game
The heavily favored Chucks had to survive a day when their ace, senior Jake Sikora, mysteriously lost it in the fourth inning when Brookville scored five runs to cut a 6-0 deficit to a single run, 6-5.
There were no sings coming into the fourth that the Raiders were going to get to Sikora, who came into the game with a 5-2 record and a 2.06 ERA.
He had retired nine straight Brookville batters after allowing the first two batters of the game to reach second and third, and he did it with seven strikeouts through three innings.
But in the fourth, back-to-back singles by Ladd Blake and Bryce Weaver leading off gave a glimpse of trouble to come.
Sikora, though, retired the next two, including his eighth strikeout, before walking the No. 7 batter Owen Fleming.
That walk opened the floodgates with singles by Pierson Ruhlman, Carter Kessler, Riley Smith, and Carson Weaver driving in five runs and driving Sikora from the game with a final line that showed him going 3 ⅔ innings allowing five earned runs on seven hits and two walks.
“You get in the moment, and stuff like that happens,” Punxsutawney catcher Cooper Hallman said. “He fought through it.”
With five runs in and the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at first, Dickey turned to freshman Nevin Day, and Day came through getting Blake, the 10th man to bat in the inning, to fly out to right field.
Day then went the next three innings scoreless giving up one hit while striking out three to earn his first postseason win.
“He’s not a freshman anymore,” Dickey said. “He hasn’t been a freshman, really, all year. He’s been special all year.”
Day’s relief pitching was a big lift for the Chucks, as was getting one of the runs back thanks to a Brookville gift in the bottom of the sixth.
After Carson Weaver retired the first two batters with ease, it looked like he had gotten the Raiders back into the dugout when Day lofted a fly ball down the right-field line. But right along the line, right-fielder Noah Shaffer dropped a ball that was ruled fair putting Day’s courtesy runner, Owen Wood, at second, and Carter Savage delivered an RBI single to make it 7-5.
“When you can respond to a response, man, that’s huge,” Dickey said. “Especially when it was 6-5. Things were getting a little dicey there. It was imperative we answered right there.”
Punxsutawney then pulled away with four more runs in the fifth and three in the sixth. That gave the Chucks three crooked-number innings, as they also scored five in the third inning.
Hallman was a big part of the offense going 2-for-2 with a walk, a sac fly, and four RBIs out of the No. 8 hole.
“Coming in we knew Weaver was pretty good,” Hallman said. “He has a good slider, good fastball mix. (He) just focused on staying middle and outside, and I took advantage of that.”
Watch Hallman’s full postgame interview
Savage was also savage at the plate going 3-for-3 with a double, a sac fly, two runs scored, and two RBIs, while Zach Dinger was 1-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored, and an RBI, and Justin Miller was 1-for-2 with a walk while also getting hit by a pitch. He had an RBI and two runs scored. Zeke Bennet walked twice, had a single, reached on catcher’s inference, and scored three times in the victory.
Bryce Weaver was 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored for Brookville.
Carson Weaver took the loss going 4-plus innings allowing nine runs, only four earned, on eight hits, two walks, and two hit batters while striking out two.
Punxsutawney will face the District 5 champion, either Somerset or Chestnut Ridge, in a District 5-9 subregional final Thursday, May 30, at a District 5 site.