PHILIPSBURG - In the third and fifth innings, veteran Philipsburg-Osceola softball coach Jim Gonder chose to intentionally walk Central cleanup hitter Taylor McKnight with runners on second and third to get to Kate Blattenberger.
The reason was the rocket McKnight launched in the second inning off of pitcher Kate Burge. Her solo home run ball cut through the strong, chilly wind at the Curtis Park Athletic Complex and bounced off of the 2007 PIAA state champs sign, which is hanging above the newly placed 2011 PIAA state champs sign and below the scoreboard.
Blattenberger made the Lady Mounties pay for both intentional walks with RBI singles in both cases.
The second one set the table for Kylie Gunnett, whose three-run double to center field gave the Lady Dragons a five-run lead and an eventual 6-4 win.
"I wanted them to pitch to me," said Blattenberger, who was also hit twice. "I have confidence, and my hitting has been on lately."
"She came through," Coach Gonder said, "but that McKnight girl is still their best hitter. I wasn't going to pitch to her. But give the No. 5 hitter credit. She came through a couple times."
The Lady Dragons improved to 6-2 and already own wins over District 6 powers P-O and Bald Eagle Area. It's the first time Central has ever beaten those teams. P-O was 24-0 all-time against Central.
"Ah man, it feels great," Blattenberger said. "Our adrenaline is rushing, and we feel amazing right now."
"Any time you can compete with Philipsburg, it lets you know where your program is at," Central coach Dale Walters said, "because everybody is judged on Philipsburg and Bald Eagle. They're the two elite teams. It's a tribute to the girls. They're all playing travel ball now, and it shows they want to take their game to another level."
Central, made up of very talented athletes, pushed its lead to 2-0 in the third inning after it loaded the bases on back-back singles by Marissa Snyder and Taylor Garman and the first intentional walk to McKnight.
Blattenberger followed with a single to left field that plated Snyder, but P-O left fielder Chelsea Brown cut down Garman at home with a one-hop throw to catcher Carly Gonder for the third out.
P-O (4-2) cut into that lead in the third when Burge doubled in Carly Gonder, who had two of the Lady Mounties' five hits off of Gunnett.
The Lady Dragons erupted for four runs with two outs in the fifth inning. Blattenberger's second hit was followed by Gunnett's bases-clearing double, making the score 6-1.
"That was huge," Blattenberger said. "It gave us the momentum. We wanted to keep it for the rest of the game because if we gave them a little momentum, we knew they'd come back because they're a great team."
"To be completely honest, she's been struggling," Walters said of Gunnett. "She only had one hit in the first five games of the year. In the last game, she had three hits, and today she came up big when we needed her."
P-O wasn't done, though. With Burge and Abby Showers on base, Aisha Goss muscled a Gunnett offering over the left field fence. Kayla Wisor then hit a shot into left-center that Blattenberger chased down for the second out.
"Kate came through with a couple hits," Walters said, "but I was most pleased with the catches she made in left-center field."
P-O threatened again in the seventh as Carly Gonder laced a one-out double to left field. Haley Frank poked a dying quail into short right-center, where right fielder Paige Mock narrowly missed Blattenberger and made a sliding catch for the second out.
Walters chose to pitch to Burge, the No. 3 hitter, and Gunnett induced her into a pop-up to shortstop McKnight for the final out.
"That's a pretty good team," Coach Gonder said. "The pitcher moved the ball around a lot. I thought they were very aggressive offensively, and defensively they did some things."
CENTRAL (6): M. Snyder 2b 421, Garman c 301, Smith 3b 411, McKnight ss 221, Blattenberger cf 212, Gunnett p 401, Mock rf 300, K. Snyder 1b 300, J. Snyder lf 301. Totals - 28-6-8.
PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (4): Gonder c 212, Frank 3b 300, K. Burge p 401, Meersand cr 010, M. Burge 1b 300, Showers ss 311, Goss dp 111, Wisor rf 300, Myers 2b 300, Carpin cf 200, Williamson ph 100, Brown lf-pr 000. Totals - 25-4-5.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Central011 040 0-6 8 1
Philipsburg-Osceola001 003 0-4 5 0
E-Smith. 2B-M. Snyder, Gunnett; Gonder, K. Burge. HR -McKnight; Goss. RBI-Gunnett 3, Blattenberger 2, McKnight; Goss 3, K. Burge. SAC-Garman; Frank. SB-Blattenberger 2; Gonder. LOB-Central 7, Philipsburg-Osceola 6. DP-Central. HBP-Blattenberger 2.
Central: Gunnett-7 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO.
Philipsburg-Osceola: K. Burge-7 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO.
Records: Central (6-2); Philipsburg-Osceola (4-2).