A long drive to the fence, which became a double, and a walk were not exactly the start Williamsport pitcher Gabe Rader was looking for.
Rader, though, recovered to toss five solid innings of shutout baseball and teammate Owen Lukens continued to stay hot with three hits as Williamsport defeated Punxsutawney 10-0 in six innings.
The win, which was summed up by Lukens as a make or break game in the Millionaires' (6-3) season, came at a much needed time after a disheartening 7-1 loss to Shikellamy.
"This was an important game we had to win," Rader said. "It feels good to bounce back and 10-run a team."
After his initial struggles in the first inning, Rader came back to strike out eight.
"After the first hit, I just figured I had to throw strikes and work ahead," Rader said. "I just had to get my confidence up."
Rader was at his best in his fifth and final inning. After he got the leadoff batter with a pop-up to second base, Rader issued two walks on 11 pitches to give Punxsutawney (6-3) runners at first and second with its fourth and fifth hitters due up. Rader struck out both hitters to end the threat.
"Gabe was huge today. We needed that goose egg on the scoreboard," Lukens said. "He delivered big time for us."
"Part of the problem was we were facing a good pitcher. Probably the best we've seen this year," Punxsutawney coach Mike Dickey said. "Our approach wasn't great. We got behind and he had all three pitches working. He was tough."
Rader's efforts on the mound were the perfect complement to Lukens' day at the plate. Lukens accounted for three hits, including a double as part of a three-run third inning. He also drove in four runs and scored twice.
"I've just been going to the plate with confidence. I try to hit the ball hard and keep it out of the air," Lukens said. "We've had trouble all year putting innings together. Today we finally put a big inning together and it shows."
Williamsport put three dominant innings together, posting two three-run innings and a four-run inning.
In the third, Sam Bubb started the rally with a single, which was immediately followed by an Ian Dinsmore double. Lukens then added his double to score two. Joe Cassidy followed him with a single to complete the scoring.
"This game was make it or break it and we came to play. We need to build off this run," Lukens said.
Both Lukens and Cassidy repeated the feat in the next inning. Lukens singled with the bases loaded to score two more runs and Cassidy added another run with his second single of the day. Punxsutawney helped Williamsport's cause with two errors in the inning.
"We have to be cleaner than that," Dickey said. "You can't make mistakes against a good team like that. They will capitalize."
The Chucks posted two more errors in the sixth, which led to four Williamsport runs to enforce the 10-run rule.
Punxsutawney 000 000-0 2 4
Williamsport 003 403-10 13 2
Dakotah Byers, Ryan Sloniger (4), Christian Falgout (5), and Sloniger, Garrett Zimmerman. Gabe Rader, Kyle Hoover (6), and Joe Cassidy. W-Rader. L-Byers.
Top Punxsutawney hitters: Clayton Dale 2B. Top Williamsport hitters: Ian Dinsmore 1-3, 2B, 2 runs; Owen Lukens 3-4, 4 RBI, 2 runs; Joe Cassidy 2-3, RBI; Evan Kern 2 RBI.
Records: Williamsport 6-3. Punxsutawney 6-3.
Next: Williamsport at Hollidaysburg, Tuesday, 4 p.m.