PHILIPSBURG - Philipsburg-Osceola senior catcher Carly Gonder has been nicknamed "Little One" by teammate Haley Frank.
Gonder, however, came up huge in the big District 6 Class AA semifinal against Bellwood-Antis.
She drove in three runs with a two-run single in the fourth inning and a solo home run in the sixth, and she teamed with Kate Burge to get out of jams in a pitching duel with Taylor Payne to lead top-seeded P-O to a 5-2 win over the fifth-seeded Lady Blue Devils on a windy Thursday at the Curtis Park Athletic Complex.
"I haven't been hitting very well," Gonder said, "so today was a good day for me. I switched bats. They've been telling me to use a longer bat, so I switched to a 32-inch. I just knew that I needed to come up big because I'm a senior, and I haven't been doing it very often."
"With Carly going out there and just smacking the heck out of the ball, it made us more confident," said sophomore shortstop Abby Showers, who went 2-for-2 with a homer.
The win hiked P-O's record to 20-1 and pushed it into the district finals for the fifth straight year. The Lady Mounties will play for their fourth straight title on Wednesday at an undetermined time at Penn State's Beard Field at Nittany Lion Softball Park against 10th-seeded Ligonier Valley, a 4-3 winner over Huntingdon.
"This is a huge win," Showers said. "They're not [located] too far away, and just going out there and playing good competition and winning is pretty awesome. Going to Penn State is the best feeling ever."
"I knew going in that Bellwood had a good team, obviously," P-O coach Jim Gonder said. "I've been hearing about the pitcher, Payne, and she lived up to expectations."
The game between returning district champions also lived up to expectations. Unfortunately for the Lady Devils, who finished 20-3, they just had the bad luck of being in P-O's bracket after moving up to Class AA.
"They've got a good thing going here, and hat's off to them," B-A coach Jim Payne said. "They've got a great organization, great program. I'm very proud to be a part of this today. They create a great atmosphere. They keep it loud, have a great pitcher and play phenomenal defense."
B-A outhit P-O, 7-5, but the home team had the bigger hits. Showers, who killed a B-A threat in the top of the second by turning a double play, led off the bottom of the inning by hitting a home run over the center field fence.
P-O played small ball in the third after Megan Bainey led off with a double. Alyssa Shedlock moved her to third with a bunt, and Frank chased her home with a squeeze bunt.
In the fourth, Showers beat out an infield hit and Haylee Hayward reached on a one-out error, which cost B-A dearly. Taylor Payne induced Aisha Goss into popping up for the second out, but Carly Gonder roped a hit to left to score two runs.
B-A finally pushed through in the sixth when Anna Wolfe, Emily Nagle and Jacqueline Finn strung together three straight hits to score a run. Nagle, who went 2-for-4, scored on a dropped fly ball, leaving runners at second and third with one out. Burge, however, recorded two straight strikeouts to end the threat.
"Kudos to the pitcher for stepping up," Coach Payne said. "One out, runners on second and third and she struck two girls out."
In the bottom of the inning, Gonder homered over the left-center field - only her second homer of the season.
"She has power," Coach Gonder said. "She's hit home runs before. And I like a three-run [lead] instead of two."
After the game, the Lady Devils huddled up and consoled each other including the graduating Payne and fellow senior starters Lauren Snyder, Kelsey Decker and Scarlett Kirkpatrick.
"End of a chapter," Coach Payne said. "I told the seniors the chapter is in the book. [Taylor Payne] is going to pitch in college [Edinboro]. One chapter ends, another one begins. That's life."
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (2): Wolfe 2b 411, Nagle cf 412, Finn c 301, Snyder ss 301, Payne p 200, Decker 1b 301, Morgan pr 000, Clark 3b 300, Shildt rf 300, Kirkpatrick dp 301, Harris lf 000. Totals - 28-2-7.
PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (5): Frank rf 200, M. Burge 1b 200, K. Burge p 300, Showers ss 222, Hayward 3b 310, Goss lf 300, Gonder c 312, Bainey cf 211, Shedlock dp 200, Myers 2b 000. Totals - 22-5-5.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Bellwood-Antis000 002 0-2 7 3
Philipsburg-Osceola011 201 X-5 5 2
E-Finn, Snyder, Clark; Goss, Bainey. 2B-Bainey. HR-Showers, Gonder. RBI-Finn; Gonder 3, Frank, Showers. LOB-Bellwood-Antis 6, Philipsburg-Osceola 4. DP-Philipsburg-Osceola. SAC-Frank, M. Burge, Shedlock. SB-Showers.
Bellwood-Antis: Payne (L)-6 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO.
Philipsburg-Osceola: K. Burge (W)-7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO.
Records: Bellwood-Antis (20-3); Philipsburg-Osceola (20-1).