UNIVERSITY PARK - State champions!
For high school athletes, the greatest feeling in the world is to be on top of your sport.
The 2011 Philipsburg-Osceola Lady Mounties reached the pinnacle of the PIAA Class AA state softball world Friday morning when they beat Brandywine Heights, 1-0, before a standing-room-only crowd of almost 1,400 at Penn State University's Beard Field.
Mirror photos by Gary M. Baranec
P-O Lady Mountie seniors (from left) Amanda Arnold, Chelsea Rex and Macy Harpster hoist the state championship trophy.
They did it their way, too. Solid pitching. Solid offense. Solid defense.
"They make me look good," P-O veteran coach Jim Gonder said, beaming. "We are a well-oiled machine."
That they are.
When pitcher Chelsea Rex is on top of her game, as she was Friday, the Mounties don't need many runs. They needed only one yesterday, and they were able to get it in the top of the second inning. They did it without a hit and without putting the ball out of the infield.
Kate Burge started it by drawing a lead-off walk. After Kelci Knepp's sacrifice bunt moved Burge to second, Brandywine pitcher Sara Fronheiser was called for an illegal pitch that pushed Burge to third.
Continuing in the small-ball mode, Coach Gonder ordered a suicide squeeze. With Burge racing home, Macy Harpster dropped a bunt between the pitcher and first base. A slight bobble by Taylor Bortz and Burge was home free with what turned out to be the only run of the game.
"When he [Coach Gonder] gave us the call that I had to steal home, I was really intimidated," Burge said. "But, I knew Macy could get the ball down, and whenever the pitcher released the ball, I started running."
"He [Gonder] asked me if I wanted to squeeze or not," Harpster said. "I said yes because I'm really comfortable with bunting, so I wasn't nervous. I knew I could get it down.
"I didn't think it would be the only run, but it only takes one to win," Harpster added.
With a final record of 25-1, the Mounties didn't play much small ball this season, Burge said.
"I think it's good, though, that a good team like us can use small ball when we have to," she said. "It shows what kind of team we really are."
One run was all Rex needed. The future St. Francis University hurler showed her mettle in the bottom of the sixth when the District 3 champion Bullets mounted their best scoring threat.
After Amanda Hess doubled to open the inning, Rex fanned Jenn Seabourne before giving an intentional pass to the Bullets' top hitter, Moravian-bound Jenn Dalickas. But, with runners at first and second, Rex dug deep and struck out Taylor Brintzenhoff and Megan Olsen to end the inning.
"We weren't going to let Dalickas beat us," Coach Gonder said. "We just weren't going to take a chance.
"Chelsea [Rex] really had her A game today," Coach Gonder said. "I think that's the best she pitched all year."
Brandywine's Shelby Snyder led off the last of the seventh with a single, but Rex fanned Fronheiser and retired Bortz on an infield pop-up before Mountie shortstop Mackenzie Wilson made a lunging catch in foul territory behind third base to send the Mountie faithful into a frenzy.
"I went after it, and came down with it," Wilson said downplaying her outstanding catch. "I was just doing my job.
"This was sweet," said Wilson, recalling the Mounties' heartbreaking 3-1, 11-inning loss to Nanticoke in last year's state title game at Shippensburg. "Everyone came together and played awesome. I knew there was no way we were going to lose this time, no matter what."
Third baseman Burge said she didn't see Wilson going after the ball.
"I figured either Katy [left fielder Katie Carpin] or Mackenzie [Wilson] would get it," Burge said. "I saw her coming at me, and I just stopped. When she caught it, I was stunned, like 'we just won states.' It was a really good feeling."
"Anything near Mackenzie, she's going after," Coach Gonder said of the final out. "When she caught it, it was a lot of emotions for me because it was culmination of a lot of hard work by these kids.
"It's gratifying for our entire program - a gold medal for all of us."
It was a tough feeling for Brandywine coach Don Roach, whose Bullets finished 26-3.
"We had some opportunities ... they were there," Roach said, "but we just didn't capitalize. They didn't capitalize a whole lot either.
"But, it's tough for us now," Roach said.
PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (1): Gonder c 401, Arnold 1b 300, Wilson ss 202, Rex p 300, Burge 3b 211, Knepp rf 200, Harpster cf 200, Carpin lf 300, Goss dp 301, Brown pr 000, Myers 2b 000. Totals - 24-1-5.
BRANDYWINE HEIGHTS (0): Hess lf 301, Seabourne cf 301, Dalickas c 200, Britzenhoff ss 301, Olsen dp 200, Sweigert 3b 000, Snyder 2b 201, Fronheiser p 300, Bortz 1b 300, Hughes rf 300. Totals -24-0-4.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Philipsburg-Osceola010 000 0-1 5 0
Brandywine Heights000 000 0-0 4 1
E-Bortz. LOB - Philipsburg-Osceola 6, Brandywine Heights 6. 2B-Goss, Hess. RBI-Harpster. SAC-Knepp, Harpster, Olsen. SB - Seabourne. CS - Wilson (by Dalickas).
Philipsburg-Osceola: Rex (W)-7 IP 4 H 0 R O ER 2 BB 11 K
Brandywine Heights: Fronheiser (L)-7 IP 5 H 1 R 1 ER 2 BB 11 K
Records: Philipsburg-Osceola (25-1), Brandywine Heights (26-3).
Umpires - David Barry, plate; Cornelius Jankosy, first; John Skovran, second; Anthony Ganzak, third.
T - 1:27. A - 1,400.