Three early St. Michael errors cast a shadow the Saints could not escape in a 10-1 loss to Punxsutawney on Saturday at the Pennsylvania American Legion Region 7 championship at Keystone Rehabilitation Field.

“It was a fantastic season, a fantastic tournament,” said Saints manager Denny Gramling, whose team closed the season at 28-5. “It’s tough to lose that opening game and fight back through the loser’s bracket.”

Punxsutawney (22-5) caught a break on the game’s first pitch, when Devin Mesoraco was hit by Josh Hershberger. Mesoraco took second when Hershberger’s pickoff throw skipped past Dave Mehall at first and took third on Matt Conrad’s fielder’s choice to first later.

Mesoraco crossed the plate when Saints second baseman Josh Shope misplayed Dustin Dubensky’s pop-up to shallow right. Dubensky went to second and then third on a throwing error by catcher Travis Rearick. Patrick McKee’s single to right brought in Dubensky to give Punxsutawney a two-run lead.

Punxsutawney broke the game open in the fifth, scoring four times. McKee’s two-run double to center served as the big blow.

St. Michael, which beat Punxsutawney on Friday, got a run back in the sixth when Jeff Rolla’s two-out single to left chased in Rearick. Punxsy’s Tyson Kennedy, on in relief of starting pitcher Chris Reesman, allowed a base hit to Casey Theys before inducing a Mehall fly-out to left – stranding runners at first and third.

Punxsutawney responded in the top of the seventh by getting its first four batters on base against St. Michael relief pitcher Robert Leichliter. Matt Lovelace’s single scored McKee, and Kennedy delivered the knockout punch by dropping a squeeze bunt that scored Nick Gillung and Lovelace, who were both running on the pitch.

“The situation presented itself,” said Punsxutawney manager Doug Mesoraco. “We had a good bunter up there and (Leichliter) was working from the wind-up. It was 7-1 and I always believe that there’s no lead that’s a safe lead. We’ve worked on that play all year and we executed it pretty well.”

Reesman worked five innings to get the win while Kennedy finished the final four frames to earn the save.

Hershberger (8-1) took the loss in five innings of work. Leichliter and Kody Reighard each pitched two innings in relief.

Punxsutawney will represent Region 7 at the state tournament in Boyertown starting on Tuesday against the Region 5 champion. It’s the first Region 7 title for Punxsutawney since 1978.

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