Lady Mounties can’t hold early lead

SOMERSET – It’s the season for amusement parks, and the Philipsburg-Osceola High School softball team should be prepared after the thrill ride the Lady Mounties had taken themselves and their fans on in the PIAA Class AA tournament.

In the first round, P-O staged an amazing comeback from five runs down to beat Steel Valley in extra innings, but even that couldn’t have prepared the Lady Mounties for what was in store for them in the state quarterfinals.

All rides must end, though, and so did the Lady Mounties’ on Thursday. South Park seemed to have given P-O the game when it committed four first-inning errors, which the District 6 champions capitalized upon to score eight runs, seven of them unearned, all with two outs.

However, what South Park giveth, the Lady Eagles taketh away. They hammered away at Lady Mountie pitching and emerged with a wild 16-12 rollercoaster win in a game at Somerset Area High School that featured 28 hits, 10 extra-base hits, 13 errors and more than 50 baserunners.

Fittingly, it wasn’t over until one last twist. About two hours after the first pitch, the Lady Mounties loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the seventh to bring the tying run to the plate in leadoff hitter Maggie Peck, who already had four hits and an RBI. Peck hit South Park pitcher Justine Dean’s offering hard, but Lady Eagle second baseman Cassie Scanlon ranged to her left, speared the grounder and threw to first to end the game.

It was such a remarkable contest, the P-O players didn’t even appear to be especially broken up despite ending a 22-3 season.

“That didn’t even seem like a softball score,” said an amazed Lady Mountie all-star third baseman and captain Haylee Hayward, who walked three times and hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Philipsburg-Osceola’s final run. “It does (stink) that you can’t move forward, but, like I told the girls, I’m not disappointed at all.”

Philipsburg-Osceola is looking for someone to guide the gridiron program after Mike Soyster’s resignation a couple of weeks ago, and Lady Mounties coach Jim Gonder might be a good candidate considering his experience in Thursday’s game. Gonder said he’s never been in a game quite like this one, and he’s been coaching P-O for 34 years and won more than 600 games.

“That was like a football score. I was waiting for the field goal to be kicked,” Gonder said with a chuckle. “The pitchers had a tough time. Either the hitters were that good or the pitchers were a little bit off.”

Runs were scored in eight of the 13 half-innings, and multiple runs were scored in seven of those. Philipsburg-Osceola appeared to be in line to win via the mercy rule after Kam Harris’ bases-loaded flyball to center was dropped, giving the Lady Mounties an 11-2 lead midway through the third.

“It was great. Having the early jump is what you want in a game like this,” P-O left fielder and cleanup hitter Chelsey Henry said. “Unfortunately, they came back.”

The WPIAL runner-up, South Park rallied for three runs in the bottom of the third, then batted around in both the fourth and the fifth to turn a nine-run deficit into a three-run advantage.

The Lady Eagles’ second through sixth hitters – Kaitlyn Morrison, Katlyn Pavlick, Katie Isenberg, Dean and Angela Shine – did an incredible amount of damage, going a combined 15-for-23 with seven doubles, a triple, a homer and nine RBIs.

Pavlick’s three-run shot over the left-field fence with one out in the bottom of the fourth made it a game at 11-8. Pavlick scored the go-ahead run after singling the following inning.

“We haven’t really been down a lot this season, but we are really good offensively,” said Pavlick, who struck out in her first two at-bats before the homer. “We knew we could produce the runs and get on base, and that’s all we needed.”

South Park improved to 16-4. The Lady Eagles play District 9 champ Moniteau in Monday’s state semis.

“Giving up seven (unearned) runs in the first inning, it’s tough to come back. But they beared down,” South Park coach Larry Mercurio said. “We’re going to score runs. We got our runs back, and obviously you see the result. The girls played tough.”

Helped by South Park’s four errors, P-O sent 13 batters to the plate in the top of the first. Jayde Burge and Kylie Thal delivered the key hits – a two-run double and a two-RBI single, respectively.

Burge finished with two hits. Hayward, Henry and Hannah Thompson scored two runs apiece for the Lady Mounties.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t get a couple of key hits there with runners on base, but, as our seniors said, this has been a very positive experience for us,” Gonder said. “The kids exceeded our expectations.”

Gonder started six players at new positions this season, including four freshmen. Hayward and Henry are the only Lady Mounties who are graduating.

“This year’s been so different for me. As a team, we just bonded. I am so happy with my senior year. It’s so hard to explain how we came together,” Hayward said. “I think I left this program with the building blocks to have a lot of success next year.”

“We just couldn’t shut the door today,” Henry said. “That’s OK. They’ll come back next year and shut the door.”

PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (12): Peck 1b-p-1b 614, Thal c 511, Hayward 3b 120, Henry lf 521, Harris p-1b-p 300, Kost cr-rf 010, Taylor pr 000, Burge dp 502, Granville 2b-pr (flex) 010, Lucas rf-ph 510, Carns cf 411, Simpson ph 100, Thompson ss 121. Totals – 36-12-10.

SOUTH PARK (14): Nugent cf 511, Morrison ss 543, Pavlick 3b 533, Isenberg c 543, Ju. Dean p 403, Davison cr 030, Shine 1b 413, Blackburn pr 000, Scanlon 2b 401, Shinavski rf 402, Je. Dean lf 400. Totals – 40-.

SCORE BY INNINGS

Philipsburg-Osceola803 001 0 – 12 10 5

South Park203 542 X – 16 18 8

E-Morrison 2, Scanlon, Isenberg, Shine, Nugent, Thompson, Granville 2, Ju. Dean 2, Hayward, Harris. LOB-Philipsburg-Osceola 12, South Park 9. 2B-Burge, Morrison 2, Ju. Dean 2, Isenberg, Pavlick, Shine. 3B-Isenberg. HR-Pavlick. RBI-Henry, Burge 2, Peck, Thal 2, Isenberg 2, Shine, Ju. Dean 2, Pavlick 3, Scanlon, Shinavski, Hayward. SF-Hayward. SB-Hayward, Shinavski, Isenberg.

PITCHING

Philipsburg-Osceola: Harris-4 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO; Peck (L)-1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO.

South Park: Ju. Dean (W)-7 IP, 10 H, 12 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 4 SO.

HBP-By Ju. Dean (Thompson 3).

Records: Philipsburg-Osceola (22-3); South Park (16-4).

Umpires: Greg Spiker, plate; Al Godissart, first; Brady Brode, second; Annette Godissart, third.