PHILIPSBURG - Most fans of District 6 softball were likely expecting a pitcher's duel Thursday in the Class AA semifinal between Philipsburg-Osceola and visiting Ligonier Valley.
Instead, the teams combined for 13 runs and 16 hits off two of the district's most accomplished pitchers as the Lady Mounties rallied for an 8-5 win to earn a berth in the District 6 Class AA finals on Wednesday.
Lady Mountie pitcher Chelsea Rex, who is heading to St. Francis to play college ball, surrendered five runs, while giving up six hits and issuing a season-high five walks.
Ligonier Valley's Christine Henderson, who is Seton Hill-bound, got touched up for eight runs on 10 hits - five for extra bases. She also struck out nine Lady Mounties.
"I definitely did not think there would be this many runs scored," Rex said. "We played [against Henderson] over the summer in a Pittsburgh Power Tournament. We knew she was a good pitcher. I thought we might only score a couple runs and I had to make sure I kept them to less than what we had. I wasn't expecting that."
"I didn't think so, but sometimes that's just the way it happens," Ligonier Valley coach Mark Zimmerman said after being asked if he thought the score would be that high. "I think both girls were leaving the ball a little bit over the plate more than they wanted to. And they ended up getting hit. But with teams of this caliber, if you leave it over the plate, it's going to get hit. And some of them got hit hard."
Rex had the first hard-hit ball, sending a pitch from Henderson over the center-field fence to stake the Lady Mounties to a 3-0 lead. Amanda Arnold and Mackenzie Wilson scored in front of Rex after a single and double off their bats.
Ligonier Valley responded with five runs in the top of the third. The Lady Rams batted around, but only had two hits. They got help from three walks and two Lady Mountie errors. Henderson helped her own cause with a bases-loaded single that plated all three runs and gave Ligonier a 4-3 lead at the time. All five Lady Ram runs scored after two outs were made.
The uncharacteristic inning may have been cause for concern for Gonder and his Lady Mounties, but his mind was put at ease immediately upon entering the dugout.
"The first thing I heard when I walked in the dugout was Mackenzie Wilson saying, 'Hey girls, let's rebound.' " Gonder said. "We had just talked the last two days about making up for a bad play and rebounding and moving on.
"I heard that in the dugout and the kids seemed ready to go. Their mindset was pretty good. I don't think they ever felt like they couldn't score some more runs."
P-O cut into its deficit in the third, getting a sacrifice fly from Kate Burge that scored Arnold and made the score, 5-4.
Two more sacrifice flys and an RBI single in the fourth put the Lady Mounties back in the driver's seat.
Burge and Carly Gonder each had sac flys, and Arnold hit the run-scoring single that gave P-O a 7-5 lead.
Arnold had a big day at the plate against her soon-to-be-teammate at Seton Hill, going 3-for-3 with four runs scored and an RBI.
P-O faces Central Cambria Wednesday at a time to be determined at Penn State University's Beard Field at Nittany Lion Park for the District 6 title.
Ligonier Valley (5): Graham ss 312, Henderson p 211, Gabelt cf 400, Newhouse 1b 301, Kiser rf-lf 210, Heming c 401, B. Wallace dp 210, Tobias 3b 300, Berry lf 111, Davis lf-rf 100, R. Wallace ph 100, Michaels (flex) 2b 000. Totals: 27-5-6.
Philipsburg-Osceola (8): Gonder c 300, Arnold 1b 343, Wilson ss 413, Rex p 111, Burge 3b 201, Harpster cf 401, Goss dp 300, Knepp lf 311, Carpin rf 210, Myers (flex) 2b 000. Totals: 25-8-10.
Score by Innings
Ligonier Valley050 000 0-5 6 2
Philipsburg-Osceola301 301 x-8 10 3
E-Davis, Newhouse; Harpster, Wilson, Myers. LOB-Ligonier Valley 7; Philipsburg-Osceola 6. DP-Philipsburg-Osceola 1. 2B-Graham; Wilson 2, Knepp, Arnold. HR-Rex (2 on, 1st). RBI-Graham 2, Henderson 3, Berry, Gonder, Arnold, Rex 3, Burge 3. SAC-Henderson; Carpin. SF-Burge 2; Gonder. SB-Carpin. CS-Wilson. HBP-Arnold (by Henderson). IBB-Graham (by Rex); Rex 2 (by Henderson).
Ligonier Valley: Henderson-6 IP, 10 H, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 9 SO.
Philipsburg-Osceola: Rex-7 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 5 SO.
WP-Rex (12-0). LP-Henderson.