P-O shuffles lineup with 1B Potter in Europe
UNIVERSITY PARK — During its run to a PIAA Class 3A softball championship and a 25-1 record, Philipsburg-Osceola has enjoyed a lineup that hardly changed throughout the season.
That wasn’t the case in Thursday’s championship game.
Senior Lacey Potter, the team’s first baseman and No. 9 hitter, missed the game while on a school trip with the history club in Europe. Potter hit .346 this season and helped turn the lineup over.
She informed the coaches about the scheduling issue prior to the season.
“I know she feels terrible and wanted to be here,” Philipsburg-Osceola coach Jim Gonder said. “That’s a once in a lifetime trip for a kid like that. I wish, like the rest of the community, (the history club) had looked at our schedule and said, ‘we better not do that then, because they might be there,’ but it’s not her fault. It was next girl up.”
That next girl turned out to be Madison Kephart, who started at first base after playing in just five games this season. Adria Lewis, who had just 11 at bats going into Thursday’s game, hit for Kephart in the No. 9 slot.
As luck would have it, Kephart had to field a high throw and a sharply hit groundout in the top of the first inning.
“She hasn’t played there at all,” Gonder said. “The first throw to her was terrible, and then she got that grounder. We liked what we saw from her in practice, and she performed for us.”
In high school softball, a second bag is often placed next to first base so that the girl running to first can run through that bag and avoid a collision.
Thursday at Penn State’s Beard Field, there was no second bag, and it led to what seemed like a nasty collision between Philipsburg-Osceola pitcher Kam Harris and Holy Redeemer first baseman Taylor Josefowicz in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Harris was able to regain her composure and pitch a scoreless top of the seventh to lock up P-O’s third state championship in school history.
“I think that collision just added a little momentum for me honestly,” Harris said. “She was in front of me, and there was no where else I could go, so I just went for it. I didn’t notice there wasn’t a base there, but I sure did at that moment.”
Holy Redeemer pitcher Morgan Bienkowski came into Thursday’s game with a record of 18-0, an ERA of 0.26, 282 strikeouts and just 16 walks, but her lack of control hurt her early.
Bienkowski hit a batter, walked another one and threw a wild pitch that allowed a fifth run to come home while throwing 40 pitches in the first inning.
“Sometimes you have that where you don’t get your location right away,” Holy Redeemer coach Jerome Paulukonis said. “Sometimes you’re a little bit cold. You have to warm up and then sit around and wait. That’s how it goes sometimes.”
Bienkowski did not talk to reporters after the game, because she said she had to catch a flight.
The game was scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m., but that start time was pushed back to 1:50 after West Greene topped Williams Valley in a high-scoring 11-7 Class 1A final that went long before the contest. Harris’ first pitch wasn’t thrown until 1:55.
Though the Lady Mounties came into the game with 39 home runs this season and Holy Redeemer had just 16, it was the Lady Royals who ended up with a long ball in the state title game.
Allyson Laiuvara, who hit just two prior to Thursday’s game, cleared the wall in the second inning. Laiuvara came back up to the plate as the tying run in the top of the sixth inning but got in front of the ball and fouled out to the catcher.