UNIVERSITY PARK - The line to get into Nittany Lion Softball Park began long before the game started.
Philipsburg-Osceola fans made the short trip to Penn State and filled the stadium, far outnumbering Brandywine Heights fans. They cheered, chanted and celebrated the Lady Mounties' 1-0 win in the PIAA Class AA Championship.
"It was amazing," center fielder Macy Harpster said. "It gets us going. It was nice that they all came. People that you wouldn't expect to see here I saw."
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
The Philipsburg-Osceola softball team poses with the PIAA championship trophy.
"We had the whole community here," pitcher Chelsea Rex said. "I don't think anyone was left in Philipsburg today."
One section behind the P-O dugout was filled with mostly young fans wearing "Gonderville 2011" T-shirts. It's a takeoff from Penn State's Paternoville and a tip of the hat to coach Jim Gonder.
When Carly Gonder stepped into hit in her final at-bat in the seventh, they started chanting her name.
"It helped a lot that they were chanting and cheering," she said. "You'd think it would be distracting, but it's nice to know that everybody is on your side."
"It made it more exciting sitting in the middle than sitting off to the side," P-O fan David Quick said. "It was a great game. I thought it was going to be more of a blowout than that. It's great to see them bring home another state championship."
Also sitting on the P-O side were 70 junior olympic softball players in third through sixth grade who got to see some of the girls they look up to win a state title.
"We figure this is a great opportunity to bring some kids to see some softball," Jim Gonder said. "I know they're excited."
"I think they now know what hard work shows," said sophomore Kate Burge, who was in sixth grade when P-O won the state title in 2007. "They now have a goal set for high school if they want to reach it."
When the team bus reached Philipsburg, it was escorted to the high school by fire engines and a police car in what turned out to be a mini-parade.
Here's the ball
If the past is any indication, Jim Gonder most likely gave a ball to Burge on the team bus.
Burge went 7-1 in the pitching circle while Rex was out with an arm injury, and she will most likely get the bulk of the pitching duties next season.
"I'm really excited for next year because I'm going to be pitching," Burge said. "I love to pitch."
Whenever Jenn Dalickas, Brandywine's best hitter, came up to bat, left fielder Katie Carpin and right fielder Kelci Knepp would switch positions.
"We knew that their third hitter was a dead-pull hitter," Jim Gonder said. "We scouted them pretty well and got a lot of reports. Was it necessary to do it? No, not today, but we play the odds. Katie Carpin is a heck of an outfielder. Nothing against Kelci, but [Katie] is a little quicker."
"We just knew that the one hitter was really good," Knepp said, "and we figured that we'd switch it up and be ready for whatever she was bringing. We did it a couple of other games."
Dalickas popped out to first base and flied out to center before she was intentionally walked in the sixth.
Come with me
For graduated seniors Rex, Amanda Arnold, Mackenzie Wilson, Knepp and Harpster, Friday's game was their last in high school.
Rex, a St. Francis University recruit, said she's going to miss playing for Jim Gonder.
"Yesterday, I was at practice and I was like 'Geez, this is the last Mountie practice I'll ever have with Jim Gonder,' " Rex said. "I wish he could come to St. Francis and coach, and I wish the rest of the seniors could too."
P-O managed only five hits off of Bullets junior pitcher Sara Fronheiser, who struck out 11 and walked two. The Lady Mounties managed to score their run without getting a hit.
"She was a lot slower than what we've been facing," Harpster said. "She had good location."
"The beginning of our lineup just wasn't getting on it," Carly Gonder said. "She was throwing outside a lot. When I was on second base [in the fifth], when Mackenzie and Chelsea were up, she was [pitching] off the plate to keep it away from us as much as possible."
Bullets draw a blank
Brandywine Heights, coached by Don Roach, is now 0-4 in the finals in the last seven years, losing twice to P-O and twice to Bald Eagle Area.
"Don has a young team, and I'll be surprised if he's not back here next year," Coach Gonder said. "I'll be rooting for him if we're not playing them."