PUNXSUTAWNEY - Batter after Philipsburg-Osceola batter took their cracks at solving the equation that was Riverside pitcher Kirsten Wilson on Tuesday evening in the PIAA Class AA semifinals.
In the end, though, Wilson, who has been baffling hitters all season, was too hard of an equation to solve in the pitching circle and at the plate.
Mixing a tremendous fastball with offspeed pitches, Wilson threw a no-hitter, struck out 15 and walked four in a pitching duel with Kate Burge.
Burge came up with big pitches, struck out eight and gave up only two runs - the only runs of the game - when Natalie Pritts drove in two on a two-out single to center in the fifth inning after P-O intentionally walked Wilson to give unbeaten Riverside a 2-0 win at Punxsutawney's Harry Noerr Field.
"That's one of the top pitchers I've seen," P-O veteran coach Jim Gonder said. "She had great command of her pitches, worked around the plate and did a good job. Hats off to her. I thought our kids prepared well. We knew what she was coming in, and we didn't underestimate her. Unfortunately, we didn't get some timely hits."
"We knew she was going to be good, and we thought we were going to be ready for her," senior catcher Carly Gonder said as she tried to fight back tears. "It was just hard. There was nothing we could really do. It wasn't her speed that was getting us. It was her movement up and down."
An admittedly tired Wilson, who recorded her 19th shutout and 14th in the last 15 games, didn't know she had a no-hitter until a reporter asked her about it after the game. She was modest when she was asked to analyze her game.
"I had a good game. I think I could have worked my drop curve a little better," Wilson said, "but it was all right."
"I think everything was working for her," Burge said. "She threw us offbalance, and I think that's what a great pitcher does."
The win advanced the Lady Panthers (22-0) into the state finals against Brandywine Heights, which edged Holy Redeemer, 5-4, in 10 innings in the other semifinal, at 10 a.m. Friday at Penn State. The Lady Mounties finished with a 23-2 mark.
Key to that final record, Burge sidestepped danger in the second and fourth innings, stranding runners in scoring position with strikeouts to end the threats. Burge threw 70 of her 112 pitches for strikes, while Wilson threw 78 of her 127 for strikes.
"I thought she pitched well," Coach Gonder said of Burge. "She didn't allow a lot of runs to score. Defensively, we played well."
"I think I did what I needed to do to help the team," Burge said, "and I think we all did what we needed to do. I probably could have spun a pitch better. I could have done something better. Every pitcher thinks that if they lose."
The fly in the ointment came in the fifth, when Riverside put runners on first and second with one out, and Burge struck out Brooke Barker for the second out. Wilson was 2-for-2, so it was an easy call to intentionally walk her and pitch to the hitless Pritts, but her single chased home Cassie Barker and Logan Snyder.
"We didn't want to give them any more runs than we could," Burge said, "and she's a great hitter too. It's a bittersweet thing. I don't want to give it up, but at the same time I'd rather her be on first and not do any damage than jack one over the fence or get another run in."
"If you want to intentionally walk me, I'll let Natalie do the work," Wilson said. "I have all the confidence in the world in her."
Wilson, meanwhile, did let a P-O runner past first base. Leadoff hitter Carly Gonder was hit by a pitch in the first inning, and she was thrown at second by catcher Nicole Mansfield on a streal attempt to complete a double play after Mackenzie Burge struck out.
Of the six non-strikeouts, Abby Showers had the hardest hit ball, lining a screamer back to the circle that Wilso gloved in the second inning. Wilson finished off the no-no by striking out Haylee Hayward and Megan Bainey looking.
The Lady Mounties, who were loud and supportive throughout the game, got together in the outfield afterward, and then the tears flowed.
"I thought the intensity at practice and during the game today was real good," Jim Gonder said. "We were obviously intent on advancing to that final game. Sometimes it just doesn't work out that way."
"I look for them to win the state championship," Carly Gonder said. "I think we would have come out strong in the state championship, so I'm hoping that they do. It's heartbreaking, but if we're going to lose, I want to lose to the best."
RIVERSIDE (2): Snyder ss 310, B. Barker 2b 401, Wilson p 202, Boehm cr 000, Pritts 1b 401, Mansfield c 302, McElwain 3b 301, Lippman rf 200, C. Barker dp 210, Krantz lf 200, Wass cf 00. Totals: 25-2-7.
PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (0): Gonder c 200, Frank rf 300, M. Burge 1b 100, Showers ss 300, K. Burge p 200, Goss lf 200, Hayward 3b 300, Bainey cf 300, Shedlock dp 200, Myers 2b 000. Totals: 21-0-0.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Riverside000 020 0-2 7 1
Philipsburg-Osceola000 000 0-0 0 0
E-Snyder. RBI-Pritts 2. 2B-B. Barker, Mansfield. SAC-Lippman, Krantz. CS-Gonder (by Mansfield). LOB-Riverside 8, Philipsburg-Osceola 5. DP-Riverside 1, Philipsburg-Osceola 1. HBP-Gonder.
Riverside: Wilson (W)-7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 15 SO.
Philipsburg-Osceola: K. Burge (L)-7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 8 SO.
Records: Riverside (22-0). Philipsburg-Osceola (23-2)