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Punxsutawney too much for Blackhawk

| Tuesday, June 12, 2007

With just one out in the top of the first inning, the Blackhawk bullpen was busy.

Unfortunately for the Cougars, it was hectic all afternoon as they used three pitchers to get through the first two innings of the PIAA Class AAA semifinal game Monday against Punxsutawney at Highfield Park in Butler.

By the end, Blackhawk (14-11) could not recover from a four-run first inning that included three walks and two batters hit by pitches and lost, 14-3. Blackhawk's eight hits were not enough to overcome Punxsutawney's 10 hits, nine walks and four hit-batsmen that produced four runs in the first, four in the second, three in the third and three more in the sixth.

"It was probably the worst game overall we played all year," Blackhawk coach Bob Amalia said.

"When we get down, it takes away our small ball. We couldn't bunt, we couldn't run. It takes you out of the game. We're not a team meant to come back when we're down. We're more likely to keep it close, get the bunting game going, get the running game going."

Punxsutawney (15-7) will face District 1 runner-up Marple Newtown in the PIAA championship game at 2 p.m. Friday in Altoona. The District 9 champion Chucks are led by catcher Devin Mesoraco, who was selected 15th overall by the Cincinnati Reds in last week's Major League Baseball draft.

"We made it to the western finals a couple years ago and making it to the state final, that's a different feeling," Mesoraco said. "Hopefully, we can go there and do our best, but this was a major win. It would mean a lot to finish the year out on a good note like that."

Mesoraco will head to his minor-league assignment next week, but in the meantime, he hopes to help Punxsutawney claim its first state title. He contributed yesterday with a home run, which was a line drive over the 340-foot left-field fence, and three walks. Mesoraco lived up to the hype behind the plate when he scooped up a ball in the dirt and showed off his MLB-caliber arm by throwing out a Blackhawk runner by three steps.

Punxsutawney pitcher Nick Gillung tossed a complete game, adding to his no-hitter in the District 9 title game and his three-hit performance, which eliminated previously unbeaten West Allegheny, the WPIAL champion.

Blackhawk didn't have the same luck on the mound. Three Cougars pitchers faced 17 batters in the first two innings. Starting pitcher Ben Borkovich gave up two singles, issued three walks, hit two batters and allowed four runs. Dan Hoffman came in with two outs and retired Mesoraco to end the inning.

Derek DiRuscia pitched the second inning and allowed four runs before Nick McCowin relieved in the third and pitched the rest of the game while allowing six runs.

Blackhawk's offense wasn't lacking. Six of the Cougars recorded hits, with the highlight coming off senior right fielder Adam Falkowski's bat. He hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the third to make the score 11-3. By that time, the game was out of Blackhawk's reach.

"Obviously, we're disappointed, and whenever you lose, you are disappointed, but Blackhawk has been around for 34 years and 2002, '03, and now '07, those three teams have gone further than anyone in Blackhawk history," Amalia said.

"If you think about it, we are in the final four of the whole state. That is a tremendous accomplishment."

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