Thal, Harris spark P-O win
By Todd Irwin
UNIVERSITY PARK – Philipsburg-Osceola lived on the edge in the District 6 playoffs, winning by a run in all three of its games en route to winning a third title in a row.
But on Monday night at Penn State’s Beard Field at Nittany Lion Softball Park, the Lady Mounties were able to breathe a little easier.
Led by leadoff hitter Kylie Thal’s three hits and two RBIs and pitcher Kam Harris’ three-hitter, P-O beat District 3 runner-up Delone Catholic, 7-1, in the first round of the PIAA state Class 3A playoffs.
“The close ones are good for the fans. They’re not good for me,” P-O veteran coach Jim Gonder joked.
“I didn’t expect that, honestly, just because of the way we’ve been hitting the ball right to people,” Harris said, “but we just kind of came alive for a little bit.”
With the win, the Lady Mounties (22-1) advanced to the quarterfinals, where they’ll play state nemesis South Park, a 17-3 winner over Karns City, on Thursday at a site and time to be announced.
P-O started putting pressure on the young Squirettes (16-8) in the first inning as Thal singled, moved to second on a Maggie Rickrode wild pitch and scored on a throwing error following a Hannah Thompson ground ball out.
Thal was in the mix again in the third as she led off with the first of her two doubles, and she scored on Thompson’s double to left field.
“I was just ready to go,” Thal said. “I was excited. I was ready to go, and so was the rest of the team.”
“She hurt us,” Delone Catholic coach Don Smith said.
Harris, who wiggled out of a bunch of jams against Central in the district championship, had a no-hitter through three innings and struck out six of the first nine batters. But Rickrode broke the no-hitter with a triple to right field to lead off the fourth. She scored on a Katie Ernst sacrifice fly, making the score 2-1.
Harris finished with eight strikeouts and no walks as she baffled the Squirettes with her curveball on the outside corner.
“The umpire seemed to be calling a little bit off (the plate), and he did it for the other pitcher as well,” Harris said. “So I figured as far as he wants to take it, that’s where I’ll put it.”
“I thought her curveball was working well tonight,” Gonder said. “She’s starting to throw a little bit of a rise, which is going to be effective later on in the year. I just had a feeling that Kam was going to throw well tonight.”
“We didn’t see that all year,” Smith said of the curveball.
In the bottom of the fourth, with Rachel Simpson, who had two hits, and Kendra Carns on first, Gonder called on No. 9 hitter Lacey Potter to sacrifice bunt after calling a timeout. Potter, who had three hits against Central, got the bunt down and moved the runners up a base.
“In the state playoffs, you have to be able to move runners up,” Gonder said. “When you have your first two batters on first and second, we’re going to try to get a runner to third base.”
The move worked as Thal ripped another double over left fielder Ashley Stanley’s head, scoring two runs and a 4-1 lead.
“That was a big hit,” Gonder said. “I felt really comfortable then.”
The Lady Mounties added three more insurance runs in the sixth as Thompson scored on an error, Madison Lucas came home on a Jayde Burge ground ball and Simpson plated Burge with a single to center.
Delone Catholic went quietly in the seventh, and the Lady Mounties could start looking forward to Thursday against South Park.
“They’ve knocked us out the last two years,” Gonder said. “That gives me more incentive.”
DELONE CATHOLIC (1): Little ss 300, Funkhouser 2b 300, Rickrode p 301, Flake cr 010, Ernst c 201, Schneider 3b 300, Buckley 1b 300, Keith cf 300, Parry rf 300, Schuster dp 100, Stanley lf 101. Totals: 25-1-3
PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (7): Thal c 423, Thompson ss 311, Lucas rf 311, Harris dp-p 301, Minarchick cr 000, Burge 3b 410, Adams lf 200, Lewis ph 000, Simpson 2b 202, McDonald pr 010, Carns cf 210, Potter 1b 200, Taylor p-dp 000. Totals: 25-7-8.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Delone Catholic 000 100 0–1 3 2
Philipsburg-Osceola 101 203 x–7 8 2
Errors–Little, Buckley; Thompson, Simpson. 2B–Thal 2, Thompson. 3B–Rickrode. RBI–Ernst; Thal 2, Thompson, Burge, Simpson. SAC–Potter. SF–Ernst. SB–Thompson. HBP–Thompson, Harris. LOB–Delone Catholic 4, Philipsburg-Osceola 10.
Delone Catholic: Rickrode–6 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 7 BB, 5 SO.
Philipsburg-Osceola: Harris–7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 SO.
Records: Delone Catholic (16-8), Philipsburg-Osceola (22-1)
Umpires: Dan Olsavsky (Home), Bruce Legros (First), Tony Olsavsky (Second), Bill Zamboni (Third)