PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Clearfield American Legion baseball team was unable to protect a pair of two-run leads as Punxsutawney/Brookville rallied for a 6-5 win at Rich Kuntz Field Tuesday evening to claim the Jefferson County League championship for a trip to the Region 7 Division I Tournament.
But the season isn’t over for the John Lewis Shade Post 6 Chiefs.
Early in the afternoon, manager Sid Lansberry was informed by Jonathan Wiest, Pennsylvania American Legion Activities Director, that the Chiefs qualified for the Region 7 Senior Legion Division II Tournament because the Clearfield Area High School enrollment for grades 10 through 12 is under 600.
“I didn’t know anything about it until today,” said Lansberry, who noted that decision reversed a previous ruling.
His understanding is that the Chiefs will travel to Lilly Saturday to play a yet-to-be-named opponent at noon in the opener of a best-of-three series.
The winner will advance to the state tournament in early August.
Lansberry also learned during the telephone conversation with Wiest that Tuesday night was the deadline for leagues to crown champions, so Clearfield would have had to beat Punxsutawney/Brookville twice to earn the title.
Jake Sorbera was just a couple of pitches away from forcing a championship showdown as he limited the regular season kingpins to six hits, striking out four and walking one.
“He pitched well enough to win,” Lansberry said. “We just didn’t hit the ball like we needed to. Too many ground balls and fly balls.”
He credited winning hurler Logan Johnston with getting the job done for Punxsutawney/Brookville (12-2).
“Johnston pitched a pretty good game,” Lansberry said. “Kept us in check pretty much.
“And they played great defense. Their shortstop (Seth Dunkle) made some real nice plays.”
The Chiefs had all eight of their hits off Johnston in the three innings they scored.
Eli Glass had a pair, pushing his average to .612, and added a sacrifice fly for a two-RBI game.
“Eli is just a tough hitter,” Lansberry said. “He has good at-bats every time. He sees the ball well.”
With Zane Morgan and Nate Barr aboard on one-out singles in the first inning, Glass sliced a hit to left field that turned into a 2-0 lead when the ball was misplayed.
RBI groundouts by Joey Dipietro and Tanner LaBenne knotted the score after Dunkle walked and was ruled safe at third base on a close play after Isaac Stouffer singled inside third base.
Clearfield regained the upper hand with two runs in the third frame.
Thayne Morgan beat out a high chopper to the right side and Zane Morgan was plunked by Johnston. Barr’s sacrifice bunt had both of them in scoring position, and the RBIs went to Glass on a sacrifice fly and Bryce Timko on another infield hit.
Once again, the hosts answered right away.
With two outs and a runner at third base, Stouffer lined a single to center for one run and Dipietro crushed a home run to the scoreboard in center field to make it 5-4.
“Joey’s hit hurt,” Lansberry said.
What turned out to be the winning run was the result of a two-out miscue in the fifth inning after Cole LaBenne and Alec Greenblatt singled and moved up a base on a wild pitch.
The Chiefs threatened to make one of their late-inning charges in the sixth with hits by Glass, Allan Myers and Hayden Williams loading the bases and Johnston walking Harrison Peacock to force in pinch-runner Cade Walker.
Greenblatt then relieved to record the third out.
Aaron Park earned a save via two groundouts and a strikeout in the seventh.
“That’s three one-run losses to them this year,” Lansberry said. “They were our nemesis. Punxsutawney and Brookville together make some good competition. We lost to them four times.”
Clearfield dipped to 16-8, including 7-3 in West Virginia and Maryland tournaments.
“That’s a pretty decent season,” Lansberry said. “I thought the two tournaments were great for us. They were a great experience for the kids. We’ll do it again next year.”
CLEARFIELD — 5
Thayne Morgan lf 4110, Zane Morgan c 3210, Nate Barr ss 3110, Eli Glass eh 2022, Cade Walker pr 0100, Bryce Timko rf 3011, Seth Bumbarger 1b 3000, Jake Sorbera p 0000, Allan Myers dh 2010, Hayden Williams 2b 2010, Harrison Peacock 3b 1001, Reese Wilson cf 3000. TOTALS: 26 5 8 4.
PUNXSUTAWNEY/BROOKVILLE — 6
Seth Dunkle ss 2100, Isaac Stouffer 3b-2b-3b 3221, Joey Dipietro c 3113, Tanner LaBenne 1b 3001, Logan Johnston p-3b-eh 3000, Aaron Park eh-p 30000, Tyler Park cf 2000, Chase Palmer rf 2000, Daren Byers rf 0000, Cole LaBenne lf 2220, Alec Greenblatt 2b-p-2b 1010. TOTALS: 24 6 6 5.
Score by Innings
Clearfield 202 001 0 – 5 8 1
Punxsutawney/Brookville 203 010 x – 6 6 2
E – Barr; C. LaBenne, Greenblatt. LOB – Clearfield 7; Punxsutawney/Brookville 2. HR – Dipietro. Sac – Barr, Williams; Greenblatt. SF – Glass.
Clearfield – Sorbera 6 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 K.
Punxsutawney/Brookville – Johnston 5-2/3 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K; Greenblatt 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K; A. Park 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.
HB – Johnston 1 (Z. Williams). WP – Sorbera 1.
W – Johnston. L – Sorbera (4-1). Sv – A. Park.
Umpires – Mark Michelucci (plate) and Mark Zimmerman (bases).