Burge family celebrates again

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UNIVERSITY PARK — Jayde Burge said she didn’t know why she spiked the softball to set off a raucous celebration after making the final out of Philipsburg-Osceola’s PIAA Class 3A championship Thursday at Penn State’s Beard Field.

She just might have been reliving one of the biggest moments in her family’s history.

Burge joined her sister Kate as a state champion with the Lady Mounties’ 8-3 triumph over Holy Redeemer, and the final moment of the game stirred some thoughts of P-O’s 2011 PIAA final win.

“It brought back some memories of Mackenzie Wilson spiking the softball after our game,” Kate Burge said. “It was super cool.”

Kate Burge scored the lone run that day in a 1-0 victory over Brandywine Heights, and Jayde Burge brought home the first run Thursday.

“It’s a father’s dream come true,” Larry Burge said. “It’s awesome. As soon as she drove that first run in, we were talking about Kate scoring the only run the last time. We spent a lot of summers and hours practicing, and this makes it all worth it.”

Watching a tearful Jayde hug her father minutes after matching her sister played out much like a dream, or at least a good sports movie.

When Burge put the tag on Holy Redeemer pinch runner Jillian Smith, everything came into focus for the recent graduate.

“When Kylie (Adams) threw that ball, and I made the tag, I thought I was in a dream,” Jayde Burge said. “Then I realized me and Kylie just made the last out of the state championship game.”

All the hours of playing catch in the backyard and thinking about how she’d feel in the moment her sister experienced seven years ago suddenly was real.

Part of the reason both sisters got the chance to experience it is Philipsburg-Osceola coach Jim Gonder, who won his third state championship but never made it the lone priority for the girls.

“It’s emotional,” Jayde Burge said. “My experience here has made me into the person I am today. Coach Gonder taught us that it would be OK if we didn’t win and never put that pressure on us, but we practiced every day like it was the state championship.”

It was a big week for the Burge family. Tuesday night, it was announced Kate will be inducted into the Pennsylvania Softball Coaches’ Association’s Hall of Fame.

“Well, you know I’m better than her,” Jayde Burge joked. “My family is so proud, and me and her have become very good athletes.”

Jayde will follow in her sister’s footsteps and play collegiately at Penn State Altoona. Kate thinks she’ll do a good job there.

“She’s a heck of a player,” Kate Burge said. “Knowing what she feels like, and that our family now had two gold medals, it’s awesome.”

Gonder has coached many girls over his 36 years at the helm of P-O softball, including his own daughters, but in the moments of excitement following Thursday’s win, he immediately connected the dots to know what Jayde was thinking.

“I went right up to her after the game and said, well you have two of those (gold medals) in the family now,” Philipsburg-Osceola coach Jim Gonder said. “She was so happy about it. She, and all the seniors, have been such great leaders this year. I couldn’t have asked any more of them.”

When a program experiences a lot of success under one coach, it’s always asked whether it’s the players or the system. Gonder credits the players, but Burge’s father, who got to experience two separate runs to state titles, knows Gonder’s style plays a role.

“The program that they are in here is so successful,” Larry Burge said. “Everyone wants to be successful, it makes people work a little bit harder and dreams come true.”

As Jayde ran the gauntlet of hugs from friends and family after Thursday’s game, it was more evident than ever that P-O softball can borrow Disney World’s motto.

Michael Boytim can be reached at mboytim@altoonamirror.com or 946-7521

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