CURWENSVILLE — After struggling to put the bat on the ball in their first three Federation League games this season, Kuntz Motor Company (Hepburnia Twins) broke out the bats Sunday at Sherman Fields.
Unfortunately for the Twins, they weren’t able to hold a late 5-1 lead as the Pulaski Generals rallied for a 6-5 victory with three runs in the top of the seventh inning.
Hepburnia, which struck out 19 times in its last game and had scored just three runs in its first three games, put together a two-run first inning and a three-run fourth to take the 5-1 lead. The Twins had seven hits in the game and only struck out seven times.
“The arm of every coach on this team is killing them right now because we hit for a long time yesterday, and it showed up today,” Kuntz Motors head coach Ike Graham said. “We knocked a little rust off.”
The Twins put two on the board on the first thanks to an RBI double off the bat of Keagan Wilson and a sacrifice fly from Shane Sunderlin. Jake Mullins, who reached on an error, scored on Wilson’s hit, and Wilson came home on the sac fly. Spencer Hoover also appeared to score on the Wilson two-bagger, but he missed second base on his travels around the base paths and was called out on appeal.
After Pulaski got a run in the fourth on an Alex Pasternak sac fly, the Twins responded with three in the home half of the frame.
Chase Graham reached on a one-out error and Mullins got on base on an infield single. Both players moved up on a wild pitch before Hoover singled to make the score 4-1. Hoover moved to second on the throw home and raced home when Wilson cracked a base hit on the first pitch of the next at bat.
Kuntz Motors led 5-1 after five thanks in large part to starting pitcher Hunter Hipps, who allowed just one run on three hits, while walking four batters and striking out seven in his five innings of work.
He gave way to Mullins in the sixth after his 87-pitch outing and Pulaski was able to chip away at the Twins lead, scoring two off the new Twins pitcher.
With one out, Ty Bittner doubled, Jackson Frank walked and Pasternak singled to load the bases. Mitchell Ferra drew a bases loaded walk off Mullins to plate Bittner, and Garrett Star lifted a sac fly to right to knock in Frank to cut the deficit to 5-3.
Pulaski continued on the comeback trail in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs with two outs off the Twins third pitcher Matt Brown.
Dante Armanini led off with a base hit and Mike Misiewicz reached on a one-out error. Bittner drew a walk to load the bases, but Brown came up with a big strikeout for the second out of the inning.
He was unable to find the strike zone on the next batter, issuing a bases loaded walk to Pasternak to make the score 5-4.
Ferra followed with a dribbler down the third base line that hit off the bag in front of Sunderlin and kicked down the left field line. Two runs scored on the play and the Generals had their first lead of the game 6-5.
Starr tossed a 1-2-3 inning to earn the save, sending Kuntz Motors to its fourth defeat in four games this season.
“Super happy with our effort,” Graham said. “Hunter went out and threw five solid innings of baseball. Jake and Browny came in and weren’t quite as sharp as Hunter, but we still had ourselves in position to win the ball game. A dribbler down the line that hit the bag is the difference in the game.
“At the end of the day it still comes down to throwing strikes. Walks hurt us a little there at the end. We still had plenty of opportunities to make plays. We’re knocking the rust off. I think we’re going to be a tough out going forward.”
Pulaski improved to 3-1 with the victory and gained some confidence with several players making their first appearances of the season.
“We haven’t had this team together for very long,” Pulaski head coach Brad Bittner said. “For a couple of them it was their first game of the year. And you could tell they were off a little bit. But it seemed to happen on the third trip to the plate. I’m happy we were able to come back. It gives the ones that haven’t played much yet confidence.”
Bittner had nothing but good things to say about the Twins.
“Those boys played well,” he said. “They played good fundamental baseball. If their relief pitchers could have hit the strike zone a little more, it may have been different. But that’s baseball. We booted it a few times too.”
Both teams are back in action Tuesday as Kuntz Motor Company visits PGP, while Pulaski visits Spike Island.