HYDE – The Clearfield Area High School baseball team is turning the Bison Sports Complex into a Field of Dreams this season.
Consider for one moment that the Bisons, in their previous two games, had come from behind to stun State College 5-4 despite giving up three home runs and jolt DuBois 7-6 after trailing 6-0 in the sixth inning.
Then, try to calculate the odds against them making it a trifecta Wednesday by knocking off defending District 9 Class AAA champion Punxsutawney – ranked No. 2 in the state by Collegiate Baseball Magazine in the preseason – with first place in both the District 9 Northern Allegany League Big School Division and the Central Penn League at stake.
Well, they pulled it off in what was a terrific scholastic baseball game that kept the fans entertained for more than three hours.
Minutes after going airborne to spear a wicked liner by Tyler Skerkavich for the final out in the top of the ninth inning with darkness rapidly approaching, Derek Danver drilled a two-out single through into left field to chase home Jarrett Fulmer for a pulsating exclamation point to another improbable Bison victory, 9-8.
Braedon Pennington’s throw was low but strong enough to roll past Fulmer as he neared home plate.
However, catcher Jordan Mesoraco was unable to hold on to the ball as he tried to scoop and apply the tag to the hard-sliding Bison junior in one motion. The ball wound up on the ground beside home plate, and umpire Gary Kost ruled Fulmer had, indeed, managed to touch the plate.
Clearfield coach Sid Lansberry, drained after watching his team overcome three Punxsy leads, was happy he didn’t have to hand out any game balls.
“I’d have to give out eight or 10 of them,” he said before trying to tick off all the key plays and key hits.
There were that many heroes for the Bisons as they rode a roller coaster of emotions into the top spot in the D9NAL at 2-0 and the CPL at 3-0.
Andrew Redden blasted two towering home runs to left center for five RBIs that erased early deficits.
Matt Lonjin came through in the clutch with Punxsy ahead 8-7 in the eighth inning, lining a double to left center after Danver and Tyler Jacobson had singled with the Bisons down to their last out.
Fulmer and Justin Hoffman paced a 15-hit attack with three singles apiece and scored twice apiece at the top of the lineup.
Jacobson wiggled out of a second inning jam after the Chucks had scored four runs to chase freshman and first-time starter Kurtis Krise. The junior right-hander gave the Bisons three more good innings before walking the first two batters in the sixth.
Enter Chad Zurat, who shackled the visitors for four innings, allowing only four hits and one run while striking out seven for his second win.
Left fielder Shane Harper saved a run in the second inning when he raced into left center to track down a fly ball that Zurat lost in the sun.
At the bottom of the lineup, four Bisons drew five walks and pinch-hitter Garrett Samsel singled to help the first four hitters see more pitches.
Clearfield, 3-1 overall, needed everybody’s input to prevail after failing to take advantage of three bases-loaded situations and stranding 14 runners in all.
Punxsy also had plenty of chances to pad its run total, leaving 13 runners on the basepaths.
Skerkavich lashed three of the Chucks’ 14 hits. Pennington, Mesoraco and Kyle Neal each had two safeties.
The Chucks staked Brodi Lowmaster to a 4-0 lead in the second on run-scoring singles by Mesoraco and Dylan Kachmar and a two-run single by Pennington that ended Krise’s mound debut.
The Bisons quickly got even, the big blow a three-run homer by Redden.
“That was a big plus,” Lansberry said.
Both teams lit up the scoreboard again in the fourth, Redden putting Clearfield ahead 7-6 with a monster homer that also scored Hoffman.
After Jacobson walked Pennington and Zak Dickey in the sixth, Skerkavich greeted Zurat with an RBI-single to center, tying the game. Zurat promptly fanned the next two batters with high heat, issued a walk to load the sacks and escaped via a forceout.
The teams matched singletons in the eighth.
Punxsy regained the lead, 8-7, when Skerkavich singled, Dane Kopas bounced a double over the left field fence and, with the infield pulled in, Mesoraco lined a single off shortstop Fulmer’s glove.
The Bisons refused to give in, though, as Danver singled through the middle, Jacobson sliced a hit to left center and Lonjin ripped his double, all after Taylor Neal, the third Punxsy hurler, had induced two pop-ups.
After walking Taylor Neal to start the ninth, Zurat reached back once more to fan the dangerous Pennington and Dickey for the second time in three innings, again with high fastballs.
“He was bringing it,” Lansberry said. “I don’t know how many pitches he ended up with, probably close to 80. That’s plenty for him. I would not have wanted to put him out there for another inning.”
He didn’t have to. Fulmer, Hoffman and Danver took care of that by combining for the deciding run, though it was a bang-bang play at the plate.
“We had to send him, there’s no doubt about that,” Lansberry said. “It was a good slide by Fulmer.”
Lansberry, who said his heart might not take many more games like the three consecutive comebacks for one-run squeakers, added, “Both teams played solid defense.
“I couldn’t ask much more out of our pitching. We started a freshman, and he had a rocky start, but I think he’s gonna be okay. I’m not discouraged, and I hope he doesn’t get down. He’s gotta come back Friday or Saturday.
“Jacobson pitched well. And Chad did all we asked.”
Clearfield will join seven other teams in the seventh annual Curve Classic this weekend at the Blair County Ballpark, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Class AA affiliate Altoona Curve.
The CPL lead again will be on the line when the Bisons test unbeaten Hollidaysburg in Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. quarterfinal. The 4-0 Golden Tigers sport two league wins.
Clearfield will play either Bishop Carroll (7-0) or Ebensburg or Bishop Guilfoyle (2-3) of Altoona Saturday at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m., depending on whether they’re in the consolations or the championship semis.
Wednesday’s Punxsy-Clearfield junior varsity game also went extra innings, Tanner Ogden scoring on winning pitcher Ronny Ogden’s infield single in the 10th to give the Bisons (1-1) a 7-6 victory.
Tanner Ogden singled and doubled while Derrick Snyder drove in two runs.
Central Penn League Standings – Clearfield 3-0, Hollidaysburg 2-0, State College 3-1, Punxsutawney 1-2, Altoona 0-1, Williamsport 0-1, DuBois 0-2, St. Marys 0-2.
PUNXSUTAWNEY – 8
Braedon Pennington lf 5222, Zak Dickey ss 4001, Tyler Skerkavich 1b-p-1b 6131, Tyler Wingard 3b 4120, Dane Kopas cf 5010, Jordan Mesoraco c 4122, Kyle Neal 2b 5120, Dylan Kachmar rf 3111, Devan Neal rf 2000, Brodi Lowmaster p-1b 2110, Joe Pisano ph 0000, Taylor Neal p 0000. TOTALS: 40 8 14 7.
CLEARFIELD – 9
Jarrett Fulmer ss 4231, Justin Hoffman rf 6231, Andrew Redden 1b 6225, Derek Danver 2b 5121, Kurtis Krise p 0000, Tyler Jacobson dh-p-3b 4010, Matt Lonjin c 4021, Shane Harper lf 2000, Isaac Butler ph 0000, Chad Zurat p 3110, Garrett Samsel ph 1010, Drew Brown pr 0000, Luke Peterson 3b 1100, Trevor Flanagan ph 1000, Justyn Knepp lf 2000. TOTALS: 39 9 15 9.
Score by Innings
Punxsutawney 040 201 010 – 8 14 1
Clearfield 040 300 011 – 9 15 1
Errors – Lowmaster; Lonjin. LOB – Punxsutawney 13; Clearfield 14. 2B – Wingard, Kopas, Lowmaster; Lonjin. HR – Redden 2 (3). Sac – Lonjin. SF – Dickey. SB – Pennington, Wingard, K. Neal, Lowmaster; Peterson.
Punxsutawney – Lowmaster 3-1/3 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 5 BB, 3 K; Skerkavich 3-2/3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K; T. Neal 1-2/3 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K.
Clearfield – Krise 1-1/3 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K; Jacobson 3-2/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 K; Zurat 4 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K.
HB – Skerkavich 1 (Fulmer). WP – Jacobson 3, Zurat 1.
W – Zurat (2-0). L – T. Neal (0-1).
Umpires – Gary Kost (plate); Lynn Gilham (bases).