HYDE – The District 9 Class AAA baseball championship and a berth in the PIAA Playoffs will be at stake on the Brockway Area High School diamond Wednesday when Clearfield and reigning titlist Punxsutawney tangle for the third time this season.
The first pitch will be at 4 p.m.
Punxsy has won five consecutive district crowns since Clearfield copped its record 13th and last one in 2003.
Included in the Chucks\’ run are victories over the Bisons in the 2006 (5-2) and 2007 (4-0) finals behind left-hander Nick Gillung, now a standout collegiate pitcher at Mercyhurst.
Last year, Clearfield was ousted, 6-2, by St. Marys in the semi-finals. Punxsy, the No. 1 seed, prevailed 7-1 in the title game.
Both the Bisons and the Chucks, who shared the first District 9 Northern Allegany League Big School Division championship with DuBois, overcame slow starts to reach the 2009 finals.
No. 2 seed Clearfield (11-8) was 1-4 after a tough 5-4 loss at Punxsutawney on April 16, and the Bisons split their next two games before going on a seven-game winning streak.
Top seed Punxsy (13-5) has won 10 of its last 11 games, including four in a row since Clearfield interrupted its six-gamer in a 14-9 slugfest on May 7.
Clearfield coach Sid Lansberry, in his 38th season at his alma mater, expects a \”pretty even-up game\” that probably will be low scoring like the first meeting.
\”I think the two teams are pretty evenly matched,\” he said. \”One difference is that they have more pitching depth than we do. They\’re a good hitting team, and they play good, sound, fundamental defense.\”
Punxsy coach Paul Hetrick has his choice of three starters in Sean Smith (4-0, 2.73 earned run average), Tommy Bush (3-1, 4.75) and southpaw Braedon Pennington (3-0, 2.83). Dylan Kachmar (3-1, 3.15) has been used mostly in relief and picked up one of his wins in the Chucks\’ extra-inning thriller over the Bisons.
The Bisons also saw Bush and Smith in that game and seldom-used Jacob Stumpf, Joel Cressley and Tyler Skerkavich in the rematch. That trio combined for only seven appearances.
Bush closed the regular season with strong outings against Brookville and Bradford, while Smith pitched a complete game against DuBois on May 8 in a 12-6 win that was crucial to give Clearfield a shot at finishing in a tie atop the D9NAL.
The Chucks are hitting .315 with three regulars above .400.
Bush, who usually plays third base when not on the mound, leads them with 27 hits and a .491 average. He has a team-high nine doubles and 21 runs batted in.
Skerkavich, a sophomore first baseman who started the season on the junior varsity, has moved into the clean-up spot and sports a .444 average on 20 hits and sports 19 RBIs in only 14 games.
Catcher Dakota Bish has supplied power at the top of the order with five home runs, two triples and four doubles among his 22 hits. He\’s hitting .404 with 19 RBIs, an unusually high number for a leadoff batter. He has drawn 27 walks.
Other probable starters will be Kyle Neal (.188) at second base, Kachmar (.275) at shortstop, Smith (.229) at third if Bush pitches and Pennington (.269, 11 RBI), Stumpf (.211, 16 RBI) and Dylan Voris (.310, 10 RBI) in the outfield.
Tyler Wingard (.283, 10 RBI) has been utilized as the designated hitter. He has walked 21 times.
\”We know their kids pretty well from high school and legion, and they attack the ball,\” Lansberry said. \”We\’ll have to play good defense to win the game.
\”Punxsy will take advantage of every mistake you make, which I think is a trait of any good team.\”
The Bisons will counter with three .400 hitters of their own in left fielder Tanner St. Clair (.426, 23-for-54), second baseman Jarrin Campman (.415, 27-for-65) and pitcher-first baseman Corey Bookhamer (.400, 22-for-55).
Isaac Butler was right at .400 before a shoulder injury sidelined him early in the season.
Lansberry will go with Matt Lonjin (.286) behind the plate, Parker Herrington (.254) at shortstop, Derek Danver (.267) at third base, Aaron Sayers (.263) in center field and Justin Hoffman (.349) in right.
Kyle Timchak (.286) will DH for first baseman Trevor Flanagan.
St. Clair tops the Bisons in home runs with four and runs batted in with 19.
Next in the RBI category are Campman with 16, Hoffman with 15 and Bookhamer with 13.
Leadoff batter Campman, a threat to run at any time, has 15 stolen bases.
Bookhamer gets the assignment to try to shut down the Punxsy hitters.
The senior left-hander inherited the role as No. 1 starter when Michael Moyer (2-4) suffered a serious knee injury and has responded with a 3-0 record. In 35-1/3 innings, he\’s allowed 37 hits and 22 earned runs, but 10 game in a tough outing at Bradford. He has 31 strikeouts and 32 walks.
Flanagan, 3-0 with a big win against DuBois, has been a pleasant surprise since Moyer went down and Butler was unavailable to step in as a possible starter.
Herrington, 2-1 with one save, has proven to be an outstanding late-inning relief specialist.
\”I\’m pleased we\’re able to be in this position to have a shot at winning the district title the way we started out the season,\” Lansberry said.
The District 9 champion will play the District 7 runner-up Monday in the first round of the state playoffs.
Moon (17-4) and Chartiers Valley (13-6) meet in the WPIAL finals Tuesday night.