Trojans edge P-O in pitchers’ duel

For senior right-handed pitcher Dylan Gearhart and the rest of the Mount Union High School baseball team, Tuesday afternoon’s District 6 Class 3A championship win was more than just a single victory.

It was the completion of a mission, and the fulfillment of a dream.

“Nobody worked harder for this than we did,” Gearhart said. “We all played for one reason, and that was to win. We’ve all dreamed about this since we were 6 years old.”

Thanks in large part to Gearhart, the dream came true for Mount Union. He tossed nine shutout innings, surviving a titanic pitchers’ duel with outstanding Philipsburg-Osceola sophomore right-hander Ryan Whitehead, and Mount Union pushed across a run in the bottom of the ninth inning to scratch out a 1-0 district title win over P-O at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

Both teams will advance to the PIAA state playoffs next Monday at a site and time to be determined. Mount Union (21-3) will meet the District 3 runner-up, Biglerville, while Philipsburg-Osceola (15-8) plays the WPIAL champion, Steel Valley, a 5-4 winner over Hopewell on Tuesday night.

Gearhart struck out five batters, walked none, and allowed only five P-O hits in a dominating performance.

“I put everything I had out on the mound,” Gearhart said. “They (his teammates) gave everything they had in return. I love every single one of these guys. They’re family.”

Mount Union coach Tim Hicks praised Gearhart.

“He did a sensational job,” Hicks said. “I couldn’t ask more of him.”

Whitehead was just as good. He pitched 7ª shutout innings for Philipsburg-Osceola, allowing only four hits while striking out eight batters and walking two. Whitehead was forced to leave the mound with no decision when he surpassed the PIAA’s mandated 105-pitch limit after recording the second out in Mount Union’s eighth inning.

“He pitched great,” P-O coach Doug Sankey said of Whitehead. “He’s been pitching so good all year. All we needed to do was to push one run across.”

While P-O couldn’t do that against Gearhart, Mount Union managed to do so in the bottom of the ninth inning against Mounties right-handed relief pitcher Carson Jones.

Shortstop Ethan Carbaugh began the ninth inning with a single to left field and was wild-pitched to second base. Left fielder Seth Smith walked, and right fielder Quinnten Fultz bounced into a force play, putting runners on first and third with one out.

After catcher Bryce Stinson walked to load the bases, junior center fielder Grayson McClain slapped a single on the ground into left field to score Carbaugh with the only run of the game and give Mount Union the hard-fought victory.

“I was just trying to drive in a run,” McClain said. “I hit a fast ball. I knew it was going through, I hit it hard. It’s an unbelievable feeling driving in the game-winning run. There’s nothing like it.”

P-O’s best chance to push across a run came in the eighth inning, but Gearhart buckled down after giving up designated hitter Isaiah Dixon’s leadoff double into the left-center gap, retiring the next three batters in succession to stem the tide.

“He did a great job in that eighth inning,” Hicks said of Gearhart. “And we were finally able to break through in the ninth inning, got on the board and got the (win).”

Whitehead worked out of jams in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, when Mount Union had a runner in scoring position and less than two outs.

In the fourth inning, first baseman Kobe Hand singled to center field and was successfully sacrificed to second by Carbaugh. But P-O shortstop Ryan Kephart snared a Smith line drive and stepped on second base to double off Hand and end that threat.

In the fifth, Fultz bounced an infield single, advanced to second on a throwing error and was sacrificed to third by designated hitter Steve Brumbaugh. But Whitehead struck out McClain swinging and got second baseman Matt Harshberger to fly out to keep Mount Union off the board.

In the sixth, third baseman Quinton Posey stroked a one-out double to left-center, but Whitehead got Hand to fly out and Carbaugh to ground out to keep the game scoreless.

“Hats off to their pitcher,” Hicks said of Whitehead.

Unfortunately, Whitehead reached his pitch limit in the bottom of the eighth inning, or the game might have gone on indefinitely.

“They (Mount Union) put together some good at-bats, fouled some balls off and worked up his pitch count,” Sankey said of Whitehead. “We didn’t do that against their pitcher (Gearhart).”

As the district runner-up, P-O lives to fight another day next Monday.

“We get another chance,” Sankey said. “I know that Central won a state title a couple years ago after losing in the district final. Anything can happen.”

PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (0): McDonald 2b 400, Gustkey 1b 402, Soltis 3b 301, Shaw c 300, Martin cf 000, Dixon dh 301, J. Whitehead lf 300, R. Whitehead p 300, Jones rf-p 300, Slogosky rf 000, Kephart ss 301. Totals — 29-0-5.

MOUNT UNION (1): McClain cf 401, Harshberger 2b 400, Gearhart p 301, Wilson cr 000, Posey 3b 402, Hand 1b 401, Carbaugh ss 311, Smith lf 301, Fultz rf 401, Stinson c 000, Brumbaugh dh 200. Totals — 31-1-8.

SCORE BY INNINGS

Philipsburg-Osceola 000 000 000–0 5 2

Mount Union 000 000 001–1 8 0

E–Gustkey, Soltis. 2B–Dixon, Posey. RBI–McClain. SAC–Carbaugh, Brumbaugh. SB–McClain. CS–Soltis (Stinson to Carbaugh). DP–Mount Union turned two (both Carbaugh to Harshberger to Hand on ground balls by Soltis and Gustkey); Philipsburg-Osceola turned one (Kephart caught Smith line drive and tagged second base to double off baserunner).

PITCHING

PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA: R. Whitehead 7 2/3IP, 4H, 0R, 0ER, 2BB, 8SO; Jones (L) 2/3IP, 4H, 1R, 1ER, 2BB, 0SO.

MOUNT UNION: Gearhart (W) 9IP, 5H, 0R, 0ER, 5SO, 0BB.

WP–Jones. PB–Shaw.

Records: Philipsburg-Osceola (15-8); Mount Union (21-3).

Umpires: Carl Bopp (plate); Tony Kline (first base); John Berezansky (second base); Andy Lubert (third base).

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