HOLLIDAYSBURG - The Philipsburg-Osceola Lady Mounties have advanced to the PIAA Class AA softball state championship game.
Combining the pitching of Chelsea Rex and the clutch hitting of Amanda Arnold with an airtight defense, P-O shut out WPIAL champion Burrell, 5-0, in the PIAA state semifinals Monday afternoon at Legion Park.
Mirror photo by Elizabeth Franks
Mackenzie Wilson (center) and Macy Harpster (right) celebrate after Harpster scored in the bottom of the sixth inning.
P-O will face Eastern champion Brandywine Heights for the state title on Friday morning at 11 at Penn State's Nittany Lion Softball Park.
"We have a 20-minute drive [to Penn State]," P-O coach Jim Gonder said, smiling. "Can you believe it? We're on our home turf."
Rex, who will take her pitching talent to St. Francis University, gave up only four hits (three by Burrell shortstop Nina Spagnolo) while striking out eight and walking only one.
Rex was in trouble only in the fourth inning when she gave up a pair of singles to Spagnolo and Courtney Reed. However, a strikeout and big defensive plays, on tough fly balls, by third baseman Katelynn Burge and second baseman McKayla Myers (both sophomores) kept the Lady Bucs off the scoreboard.
"I wasn't worried at all," Rex said. "Everyone did an awesome job behind me. I had confidence in everyone, as usual. I never have any worries with them behind me because I know they'll make the plays.
"There's a sign in our dugout that says offense wins games and defense wins championships," Rex said. "Our defense, hopefully, will win us a state championship on Friday."
Coach Gonder was pleased with the Mounties' defense, too.
"Our third baseman had an outstanding defensive game," he said. "Our second baseman was after all those pop-ups. Our center fielder [Macy Harpster], and our left fielder [Katie Carpin] had some great catches.
"Defensively, our team stepped up today, and that was the key."
The offense chipped in as well.
Arnold singled home Carly Gonder, who had tripled, with the game's first run in the bottom of the third. Gonder singled in the fifth, with one out, and scored on Mackenzie Wilson's base hit for a 2-0 advantage.
The Lady Mounties put it away with three insurance runs in the sixth. A Burge single, a sacrifice by Kelci Knepp and an error got pinch runner Chelsea Brown home, and then Arnold iced it with a two-run single.
The Lady Mounties, who dropped a 3-1, 11-inning decision to Nanticoke in the PIAA finals last year, have had an eye on a return trip to the title game all season.
"It was definitely a goal to get back," said Knepp, who had a double, single and sacrifice in three at-bats. "We've been playing and practicing for it all season."
"After that loss last year, it became my goal for this year," Rex said. "It hasn't changed. I'm ready to go out there, and I'm looking for a win.
"We want some revenge and we want the gold medals."
Wilson is another senior who hopes to wipe away the sting of last year's defeat.
"It's awesome," she said. "It's what we've been fighting for and working hard for all year.
"We made our decision a year ago that we were going to get back there again," Wilson said. "We accomplished one goal today and now we've got to win it [state title.]
Coach Gonder also is looking forward to Friday.
"These kids are competitors and I'm sure they wanted to get back, as we [coaches] do. We're going to be working hard in practice the next three days," he said.
"I hope we pack [Penn State]," Coach Gonder said. "I hope there's not an empty seat in the place. We want to win the gold for Philipsburg."
Burrell lost to P-O, 5-1, in the quarterfinals a year ago, and coach Mike Spagnolo respects the Mounties.
"When you get into this level and you meet Philipsburg ... first of all, they've got a heckuva coach who has a lot of wins and he's been there before," Mike Spagnolo said.
"And, with a pitcher like he has now, it makes them extra tough to beat," Spagnolo said. "She had to be [pitching] in the mid-60s, and she was locating the ball where she wanted.
"She had us eating out of her hands."
BURRELL (0): Manga lf 300, Spagnolo ss 303, Damico 3b 300, Reed c 301, A. Mazzei cr 000, Sweeney cf 300, C. Moses p 200, K. Mazzei cf 000, Fisher 2b 300, J. Moses 1b 200, Landowsky dp 200, Uzelac rf 000. Totals - 24-0-4.
PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (5): Gonder c 422, Arnold 1b 302, Wilson ss 301, Rex p 300, Burge 3b 301, Brown pr 010, Knepp rf 202, Harpster cf 210, Carpin lf 200, Goss dp 200, Frank pr 010, Myers 2b 000. Totals -24-5-8.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Burrell000 000 0-0 4 1
Philipsburg-Osceola001 013 X-5 8 1
E-Damico, Gonder. 2B-Knepp. 3B-Gonder. RBI-Arnold 3, Wilson. LOB-Burrell 4, Philipsburg-Osceola 7. SB-Wilson. CS-K. Mazzei (by Gonder). Sac - Arnold, Knepp, Harpster, Carpin.
Burrell: C. Moses (L)-6 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 8 SO, 2 BB
Philipsburg-Osceola: Rex (W)-7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 8 SO, 1 BB
Records: Burrell (19-2); Philipsburg-Osceola (24-1).