UNIVERSITY PARK - The Philipsburg-Osceola High School softball team certainly is no stranger to deep playoff runs. In fact, the Lady Mounties are practically synonymous with them.
"Me and Carly Gonder and McKayla Myers were talking about it the other day,'' junior pitcher Kate Burge said. "In my high school career, I've never went anywhere except the state championship game.''
However, after winning the Class AA state championship last season and finishing as the runner-up in 2010, the Lady Mounties won't be making a return trip to the PIAA finals this year.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Neshannock’s Rayanna Furst beats out a bunt behind P-O’s Mckenzie Burge.
Rayanna Furst's third hit of the game, a double to left-center, drove in two unearned runs as once-beaten WPIAL consolation game winner Neshannock ousted P-O from the interdistrict tournament in the first round, 5-3, in eight innings in the completion of a suspended game filled with twists and turns on Tuesday afternoon at the Nittany Lion Softball Park and Beard Field.
Philipsburg-Osceola, the District 6 champ, closed its season at 20-5.
"I would have liked to have played better defense, but, unfortunately, we didn't. But I'm happy with some of the things that happened in the game. A couple of times we came back from a run down and scored,'' veteran P-O coach Jim Gonder said. "Unfortunately, they got two at the end that we couldn't come back from.''
The Lady Mounties scored in the fifth to knot the game at 2 and forced extra innings when, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Burge lined a single to center to score McKenzie, who had doubled.
P-O's jubilation was short-lived. After Kate Burge got Neshannock's Allie Fischer to ground out to shortstop Abby Showers to open the eighth, Katy Burrelli and Rachel Iorio reached on errors by third baseman Haley Frank and Showers, the Lady Mounties' third and fourth miscues of the contest.
Burge retired Jamie Graziani on a foul popup, bringing Furst to the plate.
"I'd been telling the team the entire day to step up in the batter's box and to swing away, swing hard, so I decided to tell myself that and come through and hit it,'' Furst said.
She did, going the other way to put the ball between Lady Mountie outfielders Aisha Goss and Katie Carpin all the way to the wall. The runners scored easily.
One of five lefties in a Lady Lancer lineup designed to put pressure on opposing fielders, Furst had been hitting in the third spot much of the season before being moved to leadoff.
"I told her, 'You're a No. 3 hitter right now. We need you to drive the ball. You have the best swing on this team. Let's show it to everybody,''' Kimmel said.
Furst then retired P-O in order in the bottom of the inning to end the Lady Mounties' season. Neshannock improved to 20-1 and will play Fairview of District 10 in the state quarterfinals.
The Lady Lancers' eighth-inning rally wasn't without controversy. Iorio's grounder up the middle was fielded by Katie Burge, who threw to Showers crossing second base for an apparent force play for the second out. Showers, though, dropped the ball seemingly upon making contact with Borrelli while trying to throw to first for the double play. Instead, both Neshannock players were safe.
Jim Gonder went out and talked to second base umpire Tracy Cornelius about the play.
"The discussion was that the baserunner is supposed to slide, and did her not sliding cause the ball to become dislodged,'' Gonder said. "They didn't think it did.''
Neshannock's seventh-inning run required an umpires conference, too. Madison Altmyer grounded to Frank with runners on second and third. Frank's bobble took off a play at first, but Amanda Furst ran straight into a tag at third for the last out of the inning.
It was Kimmel, though, that went to the umpires this time, asking if Rayanna Furst had scored from third before Frank's tag. After a meeting, the go-ahead run was awarded.
It fit a game filled with unusual occurrences. The contest started Monday afternoon but was called after a more than an hour rain delay in which the Neshannock players entertained themselves, their fans and even the Lady Mounties by dancing to Carly Rae Gepson's "Call Me Maybe'' over the PA system. Then they rode back to New Castle before returning to Penn State for the last five innings.
"We were all upset at having to go home. We figured we couldn't come all this way for nothing. We had to come out and do it,'' Rayanna Furst said.
Kate Burge delayed Neshannock's celebration with her RBI single in the seventh.
"I just knew I had to hit something. I wasn't going for anything big,'' Burge said. "I was just trying to get her in. I knew if I did that we'd all be back up.''
It was P-O's second comeback. Neshannock took a 2-1 lead in the fourth by combining four singles and a two-base error on outfielder Kayla Wisor. Wisor attoned by throwing out Fischer at the plate for the last out.
The Lady Mounties tied it when Carly Gonder tripled and scored on McKenzie Burge's single in the fifth. Before the suspension with two outs in the top of the third, Gonder had put P-O ahead by reaching on an error, advancing to third on a sacrifice and a Showers' single and scoring on Kate Burge's deflected groundout to second.
Neshannock rapped out 11 hits, but Burge only allowed two earned runs, striking out six and giving up one intentional walk. She stepped up to strand five Lady Lancers in scoring position.
"With such a young team, we have a lot of emotions. Even an older team is going to have a lot of emotions in a game like this, because it's such a big game,'' Burge said, fighting back tears. "We just tried to stay positive, and I think that helped us.''
Burge will be back to try again next year, as will most of the Lady Mounties. Starting outfielders Carpin and Wisor are P-O's only seniors.
"It's a life lesson. That just shows you what could happen next year when we come back,'' Burge said. "We are losing two players that are strong players, but that just makes it all the better for us to come back and show people what we can do.''
NESHANNOCK (5): R. Furst cf 513, Shaffer 3b 401, DeMatteo 2b 411, A. Furst p 302, Zingaro cr 010, Altmyer lf 400, Fischer 1b 401, Burrelli rf 411, Iorio c 311, Graziani ss 401. Totals-35-5-11.
PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (3): Gonder c 421, M. Burge 1b 111, Showers ss 301, K. Burge p 402, Meersand cr 000, Goss lf-cf 300, Frank 3b 400, Williamson dp 201, Bainey pr-dp 100, Myers 2b (flex) 000, Wisor rf 100, Brown rf 100, Carpin cf-lf 300. Totals--27-3-6.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Neshannock000 200 12-5 11 2
Philipsburg-Osceola100 010 10-3 6 4
E-Shaffer, Wisor, Myers, DeMatteo, Frank, Showers. DP-Neshannock. LOB-Neshannock 8, Philipsburg-Osceola 8. 2B-M. Burge. 3B-Gonder, A. Furst. RBI-K. Burge 2, Fischer, M. Burge, Altmyer, R. Furst 2. SAC-M. Burge, Showers, Wisor, Shaffer. SB--R. Furst, A. Furst.
Neshannock: A. Furst (W)-8 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 SO.
Philipsburg-Osceola: K. Burge (L)-8 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO.
HBP-By K. Burge (Iorio).
Team records: Neshannock (20-1); Philipsburg-Osceola (20-5).
Umpires: Tom Culp, plate; Dave Fyock, first; Tracy Cornelius, second; Craig Yohn, third.