State College set a team goal for its approach at the plate more than a week ago.
The Little Lions wanted to start hitting the ball hard on the ground more often than they lifted it into the air.
That approach worked in State College’s 13-0 win over previously unbeaten Punxsutawney in five innings Monday. The Little Lions struck for nine runs in the first inning, keeping the ball on the ground and taking advantage of four errors by the Chucks. They pounded out six hits and sent 13 hitters to the plate in the big inning.
“That first inning was the ballgame,” State College coach Bill Tussey said. “We went in with the plan (of) hitting the ball down and hard, which the boys did a great job of doing that in the first inning. Punxsy made a mistake here or there and we capitalized on it.”
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Chris Adams finished 3 for 3 with four RBIs and Tyler Hall went 2 for 3, scored two runs and drove in another to lead State College (11-5), which finished with 11 hits. Little Lion pitcher Tucker Triebold pitched all five innings, striking out six, walking none and limiting Punxsutawney to three hits to earn the win.
Punxsutawney came into the game with a 13-0 record.
“We just flat-out laid a total egg today,” Punxsutawney coach Mike Dickey said. “Our focus wasn’t there for whatever reason. The ball tends to find you when you don’t want it. That was uncharacteristic the way we booted the ball around today, so that was disappointing. I’m disappointed in the total effort from all phases.”
Chucks pitcher Ryan Sloniger lasted just one inning in the loss.
The Punxsutawney defense faltered from the start as third baseman Dakotah Byers couldn’t handle a chopper by State College leadoff hitter Brandon Raquet in the bottom of the first.
Caleb Walls followed with a single before Adams laid down a sacrifice bunt to move his teammates to second and third. Sam Plafcan then sent a single through the left side of the infield to give State College a 2-0 lead.
Harrison Walls ripped a line drive off Byers’ glove to drive in a run, and Hall’s chopper over the mound scored another. Back-to-back errors by Punxsutawney shortstop John Matthews and first baseman Lance Pennington allowed three more runs to score.
State College led 7-0 with one out. Three batters later, Adams connected on a two-run single to center field.
Punxsutawney’s Peyton Graham replaced Sloniger on the mound to start the second inning.
“We went after every single fastball he threw — both pitchers,” Adams said. “And when you attack that fastball, good things happen.”
State College also kept the ball on the ground, a team goal since facing Bald Eagle Area on April 24. The Little Lions flew out or popped out in foul territory six times in 25 at bats Monday.
It was State College’s fourth win in its last five games, a span that started with an 11-0 win over BEA.
“It’s not like we have a fence to aim at,” Tussey said. “So on this field, particularly now that they’re starting to get pretty hard, we’re really trying to hit the top half of the baseball.”
The nine-run first inning provided plenty of support for Triebold, who shut down a Chucks team that was averaging 10.1 runs per game.
The right-hander got three straight outs to strand Punxsutawney runners on second and third in the first inning. He then retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced.
“He did an excellent job just pounding the bottom half of the strike zone, keeping the ball down, getting ground balls and keeping them off balance with his offspeed,” Tussey said.
With Triebold cruising on the mound, State College added to its early nine-run lead in each inning to hand Punxsutawney its first loss.
“They’re a great team,” Adams said of Punxsutawney. “It just wasn’t their day today. It happened to be our day and I think that’s great for our confidence and I think it will really help us out going into playoffs here.”