PHILIPSBURG - It's hard to lose whenever your pitcher doesn't allow any hits.
For the Philipsburg-Osceola softball team, it has become the norm with junior pitcher Kate Burge this postseason.
After no-hitting Cambria Heights in a 15-0 win in the first round of the District 6 Class AA playoffs last week, Burge was back at it again on Monday against Marion Center.
Burge's only blemish against the Lady Highlanders was a late-inning error and, for the second time in as many outings, only one slip-up kept her from perfection.
Burge issued one walk and struck out 11 in earning her second straight no-hitter, as she and the Lady Mounties (18-4) advanced to the semifinals with an 8-0 win over the Lady Stingers.
"She's pitched well [in the playoffs]," P-O coach Jim Gonder said. "She's mixed her pitches up and she's hitting her spots pretty well. She's moving it around, and that's a bonus for us. I think her getting ahead of the batters is, too. She has been in a rhythm the last few weeks of really getting ahead in the count."
After getting out to a comfortable 7-0 advantage after the first two innings, Burge was in cruise control in facing just one over the minimum in the contest.
Burge fanned the first four hitters she faced and only went to a three-ball count on two occasions. In all, Burge tossed 78 pitches in the game - 57 of which were strikes.
"She didn't seemed to get rattled," Marion Center head coach Ed Peterson said. "It seemed like whenever she got behind she made that pitch [that she needed], and good pitchers will make the batters chase after stuff. She did that with her curveball and screwball. She had good command of them."
After RBI singles from Abby Showers and Burge pushed the Lady Mounties to a 2-0 lead after the first, the Lady Stingers' youth and inexperience showed up in an error-filled second inning.
Marion Center (19-3), which features 10 underclassmen on its 15-player roster, committed four of its five errors in the stanza, which led to five unearned runs against pitcher Kiersten Gromley.
Gromley settled in after the second and allowed just one more run on two hits in her final four innings, but it was too little, too late against the two-time defending D-6 champs.
"I think we were just a little bit nervous that inning," Peterson said. "We got a little careless with our throws, and you've got to come out and get three outs every inning. We're young and being in a pressure game like this, it is a lot to handle to come into this environment with the history this school has."
Showers' two-run single highlighted the five-run second for P-O, which also got RBIs from Carly Gonder and Makenzie Burge in the inning.
"When the playoffs come around, you have to have a short game," said Jim Gonder, whose team will host either Penns Valley or Mount Union on Thursday.
"We've been working on trying to do some things, and that's one of the reasons we moved Kenzie up into that No. 2 spot. We're scoring some runs, which has been nice. If we can give Kate some support, she's more than capable of keeping teams down."
Marion Center (0): Snyder cf 300, Dotts 2b 200, Peterson ss 300, Risinger 1b 300, Robinson 3b 200, Marshall c 200, Donaldson lf 200, Frye cf 200, McMahan dp 200, Gromley p (flex) 000. Totals: 21-0-0.
PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (8): Gonder c 411, M. Burge 1b 321, Showers ss 322, K. Burge p 302, Goss lf 200, Frank 3b 300, Williamson dp 300, Wisor rf 311, Carpin cf 221, Myers 2b (flex) 000. Totals: 26-8-8.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Marion Center000 000 0 - 0 0 5
Philipsburg-Osceola250 001 X - 8 8 0
E-Donaldson 3, Marshall, Robinson. LOB-Marion Center 1, Philipsburg-Osceola 4. RBI-Gonder, M. Burge 2, Showers 3, K. Burge. SAC-Carpin. SB-Showers 2, Gonder, Carpin.
Marion Center-Gromley (L), 6 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO.
Philipsburg-Osceola-K. Burge (W), 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 SO.
HBP-Showers, Goss (by Gromley). WP-Gromley 4. PB-Marshall 3.