Punxsutawney’s Travis Keister smacked a 2-run single in the top of the first inning Sunday afternoon at Lawrence Township Rec Park, and three Punxsy pitchers limited Clearfield to just one run in a 3-1 decision.
The win gives Punxsutawney the Area 6, 13- and 14-year-old teener title. Both teams qualify for the state tournament.
Keister delivered the base hit on a 2-2 count off Clearfield starter Morgen Billotte, who issued 4-pitch walks to Zeke Bennett and Justin Miller earlier in the inning.
But after the shaky start, Billotte settled in nicely, allowing just an unearned run over the next five innings. He gave up just two hits, while walking five and striking out seven in his six innings of work.
Unfortunately, the Clearfield bats were also being kept down by Justin Miller, who allowed just one hit — a Cole Miller single — in his four innings on the mound.
Clearfield loaded the bases against him in the third inning, but couldn’t get the clutch hit. The hosts stranded 10 runners (five in scoring position) in the game.
“This game was similar to Saturday’s game (a 3-2 win over Philipsburg-Osceola), we just didn’t win,” Clearfield head coach Kevin Billotte said. “We got great starting pitching both days. And coming into the weekend that’s what I was worried most about. We had some sore arms and had some players move on that couldn’t play 13-14-year-old anymore.
“I’m very happy with the pitching. The defense played great. You only give up three runs and that gives you a chance to be in any ball game. We needed to come up with some clutch hits. We didn’t hit enough line drives. That’s certainly an area we need to work on.”
Clearfield did outhit Punxsy 5-2, getting singles from Miller, Kamden Kushner, Billotte, Joe Knee and Hayvin Bumbarger. It also could have had a couple more base hits, had it not been for a pair of defensive gems from Punxsy shortstop Coy Martino and several nice plays in the outfield.
“Punxsy is a sound baseball team. They play smart,” Billotte said. “They made a couple diving plays and they didn’t make any errors. They played sound baseball. All in all it was a nice game for both teams. They just came out on top.”
After Punxsy extended the lead to 3-0 with an unearned run in the fifth, Clearfield answered in the top of the sixth against Martino, who came on in relief of Miller.
Billotte and Knee hit consecutive one-out singles off Martino. Eric Myers plated Billotte when he reached on a fielder’s choice that erased Knee’s pinch runner, Will Domico, from the base paths.
Bumbarger hit a 2-out single to keep the Clearfield rally going, but Martino was able to get out of the jam with an inning-ending strikeout.
Bumbarger also tossed an inning of scoreless relief for Clearfield, facing the top of the Punxsy order in the seventh and keeping his team in the game for one final at bat.
“It was nice to see Hayvin come in and finish what Morgen started,” Billotte said.
“And Hayvin did it against the meat of their lineup.”
But Punxsy’s Keister sandwiched three strikeouts around two walks in the home half of the seventh to earn the save and send his team to the VFW State Teener Tournament as Area 6 champs.
Clearfield’s runner-up finish also earns it a spot in the state tournament at Hollidaysburg. Clearfield opens the tournament against the Area 5 champion July 19 at 4 p.m.
“Our baseball season is extended,” Billotte said. “We showed we can hang with good teams. We have some good pitching that should be able to keep us in ball games.”
Bennett cf 2100, P. Wood 2b 3000, J. Miller p-ss-3b 2200, Keister lf-p 3012, Moore c 4000, Neese 1b 1000, Wazzelle ph 1000, L. Miller rf-lf 0000, Martino ss-p-ss 3010, O. Wood 3b-rf 3000. Totals: 22-3-2-2.
C. Miller cf 3010, Durandetta ss 3000, Billotte p-1b 1110, Knee 3b 3010, Domico pr 0000, Myers eh 3001, Bumbarger 1b-p 3010, Rumsky 2b 3000, Mikesell rf 1000, Quick rf 2000, Bloom c 2000, Kushner lf 2010. Totals: 26-1-5-1.
Score by Innings
Punxsutawney 200 010 0—3 2 0
Clearfield 000 001 0—1 5 3
Errors—Durandetta 2, Bumbarger. LOB—Punxsutawney 9, Clearfield 10. DP—Clearfield. SAC—L. Miller, P. Wood. HBP—Keister (by Billotte), J. Miller (by Bumbarger). IBB—Billotte (by J. Miller). SB—Bennett 5, J. Miller 4. WP—J. Miller Billotte 2.
Punxsutawney: J. Miller—4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 2 SO; Martino—2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO; Keister—1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO.
Clearfield: Billotte—6 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 7 SO; Bumbarger—1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO.
WP—J. Miller. LP—Billotte. Save—Keister.