Lady Mounties fall game short of state final

CRESSON — Philipsburg-Osceola’s Maggie Peck, who broke school home run records this season and valiantly pitched in relief against South Park in a PIAA Class 3A state semifinal game at Mount Aloysius, fought hard to hold back the tears.

“Um, I don’t want to cry,” she said. “They’re a good team, and we’re disappointed because we really wanted it. But it’s a game, I guess.”

P-O wanted a spot in the PIAA finals, but it was not to be for the Lady Mounties.

South Park scored three runs against P-O ace Kameryn Harris in a 43-pitch first inning on a warm day, and only scored one more in Peck’s five innings of relief, while Lady Eagles pitcher Justin Dean tossed a two-hitter to end the Lady Mounties’ season, 4-0.

“They hit the ball well,” P-O coach Jim Gonder said. “Bringing Maggie in was more about keeping their big hitters off-balance with a changeup. I take partial blame. I maybe could have started her and kept them off-balance from the very first pitch.

“But Kam had only given up two runs (in the postseason),” a laughing Gonder said. “You guys would have been second-guessing me out here.”

“I feel like we’re pretty disciplined at the plate,” South Park coach Larry Mercurio said. “No, I wasn’t surprised with the first inning. We have nice 1, 2, 3, 4 (hitters). If you can get a couple in that first inning, it kind of paves the way for the rest of the game.”

P-O finished with a 20-4 record. It was the second straight year that South Park ended P-O’s run to the state championship game. Last year, the Lady Eagles overcame P-O’s eight-run first inning to win, 16-12, in the state quarterfinals.

“I was expecting (more runs for both teams) based on what happened last year,” Gonder said. “But last year was kind of an unusual situation with the field and all of the wind. I knew their top of the lineup is very tough. Their pitcher kept us off-balance, worked us inside, threw her changeup, had a little more zip than I anticipated.”

South Park (19-3) came out very patient against Harris, who gave up her first two runs of the postseason against Deer Lakes in the quarterfinals. South Park batters took the count to three balls many times, and worked three walks off of Harris, who hadn’t walked a batter in the postseason.

After Jess Dean walked to start the bottom of the first, Kaitlyn Morrison drove her in with a triple to center field. After another walk to Katlyn Pavlick, Justine Dean’s double knocked in Morrison and Pavlick. Harris avoided further damage with two strikeouts and a fly ball out.

“It happens,” P-O catcher Kylie Thal said. “I don’t think we got all of the calls we wanted, so that’s definitely a factor. Even though it was 3-0, I thought Kam did really well.”

Peck relieved Harris in the second, and she scattered eight hits over five innings, but she came up with clutch pitches when she had to.

“They told me to be prepared for whenever,” Peck said, “so I was just ready for whenever.”

Was she prepared to pitch in the second inning?

“Actually, no,” she said. “I didn’t think in the second I’d go in, but it is what it is.”

South Park loaded the bases in the second, but she induced a ground ball back to her for the third out.

Mixing a strong changeup and an effective fastball, Peck retired the side 1-2-3 in the third and fourth, striking out the first two batters of the third.

“She was on fire,” Thal said. “I think she wanted to be there.”

Her defense helped her out with the first two batters of the fifth as center fielder Kendra Carns tracked down in a line drive and Sadie Granville made a diving catch of a Justine Dean looping hit toward the second base bag.

But two errors in that same inning led to an unearned run scoring and giving South Park a 4-0 lead.

“She pitched great,” Gonder said. “Even the run she gave up was an unearned run. She gave up one hard-hit ball. She’s a pretty cool customer.”

The Lady Eagles loaded the bases again in the sixth, but right fielder Lucas made a diving catch in short right field to end the threat.

The Lady Mounties’ best shot at scoring came in the third. Granville reached on an error to start the top of the third, and Annie Kost doubled to center field – the first hit off of Dean.

But a looping ball hit by Peck was gloved by third baseman Pavlick, who then tagged Granville for a double play.

Dean hit Hannah Thompson for the second time, and Madison Lucas, who was held hitless after getting four hits in the last game, reached on an error to load the bases. Dean, however, induced Harris into hitting a grounder back to her for the third out.

“She was good,” Peck said of Dean. “She was mixing them up, keeping us on our toes. At this point in the season, it’s all good pitching. We knew going in she was good, but the balls didn’t fall in our favor.”

“We had one opportunity to score some runs,” Gonder said, “and we didn’t take advantage of that.”

Thal, a junior, had the best at-bats of the day for P-O as she lined out to short in the second, singled to center in the fourth and lined out to right in the seventh.

“I was just confident in myself,” Thal said. “I wanted to be here, and I was here for a reason. I tried my hardest, and I gave it everything I had. She (Dean) is very good. She works the offspeed pitch well, and I give her a lot of credit for that.”

Pavlick handled Granville’s ground ball for the final out, and South Park’s celebration was on. The Lady Eagles will play in the state championship game at 1:30 p.m. on Friday at Penn State’s Nittany Lion Softball Park against Pine Grove, which beat Mid-Valley, 10-6.

It was the last game for P-O seniors Peck, Granville and Kost.

“I’m very proud of what our seniors did,” Gonder said. “What can I say about Maggie that I haven’t already said. Annie did a tremendous job in left field. Sadie Granville never played softball until she was a junior in high school, and, defensively, she was as good as I’ve seen at second base.”

Philipsburg-Osceola (0): Peck 1b-p 300, Thompson ss 100, Lucas rf 300, Harris p-dp 300, Burge 3b 300, Thal c 301, Adams dp-1b 200, Simpson 1b 100, Granville 2b 300, Kost lf 201, Carns cf 000. Totals: 24-0-2.

South Park (4): Je. Dean 1b 312, Morrison ss 411, Pavlick 3b 311, Ju. Dean p 301, Finale cr 000, Blackburn c 402, Mesick cr 010, Davison dp 401, Carozza lf 100, J. Shinavski ph 101, Albitz cf 300, Glowa 2b 301, L. Shinavski rf 000. Totals: 29-4-10.

SCORE BY INNINGS

Philipsburg-Osceola 000 000 0–0 2 2

South Park 300 010 X–4 10 2

Errors–Thompson, Burge; Morrison, Pavlick. 2B–Kost, Je. Dean, Ju. Dean. 3B–Morrison. RBIs–Ju. Dean, Morrison. HBP–Thompson 2. DP–South Park. LOB–Philipsburg-Osceola 5, South Park 11.

PITCHING

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

South Park: Ju. Dean (W)–7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 HBP, 3 S.

Records: Philipsburg-Osceola (20-4); South Park (19-3)

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