Dixon’s 2-run double paces Mounties
BUTLER — Ryan Whitehead gave Philipsburg-Osceola a golden opportunity to win the District 6 Class 3A title last week when he kept Mount Union scoreless into extra innings, but the Mounties couldn’t capitalize.
Isaiah Dixon was determined not to let it happen again.
The senior designated hitter, who struck out in his first two times at the plate Monday, ripped a two-run double to the wall in the top of the sixth inning to break P-O’s scoring slump and support Whitehead in a 3-1 victory over WPIAL champion Steel Valley at Michelle Krill Memorial Field at Pullman Park in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A playoffs.
“(Steel Valley pitcher Nick Harhai) gave me a fastball, and I crushed it,” Dixon said. “I saw some pitches in those other at bats, and he had a really good curveball and changeup, but I finally got my swing on time. Winning this means everything.”
Whitehead handled the rest, going the distance on the mound and allowing just four hits and a seventh-inning run, while also adding an RBI single at the plate.
“I just can’t believe we went that long without scoring a run, I felt so bad,” Philipsburg-Osceola coach Doug Sankey said. “I’m just amazed by his composure for a sophomore. That was like 13 or 14 innings in a row that we didn’t score for him, and he just went out there and kept putting up zeros.”
Whitehead and Harhai were locked in a pitcher’s duel through the first five innings that likely reminded many of the Mountie faithful of P-O’s 1-0, nine inning, loss last week. But Whitehead was able to keep his pitch count down while Harhai’s nine strikeouts put him at 87 pitches through five innings.
Philipsburg-Osceola’s Nate Gustkey greeted Harhai with a leadoff single in the sixth, Keegan Soltis drew a walk, and with one out, Dixon drove both home with his double on Harhai’s 104th pitch.
“Their pitcher was giving us fits,” Sankey said. “He made Isaiah look pretty bad for two at bats, but Isaiah got into a fastball, and that was the big hit for us.”
Harhai retired Jeremy Whitehead on a lineout before he reached his pitch-count maximum, and Ryan Whitehead greeted reliever Mason Haley with an RBI single.
“It was a relief off my shoulders,” Ryan Whitehead said. “I knew my team would come through. When Isaiah had that hit, I was excited, because I knew Keegan would score from first. This is a great feeling after not coming through in the finals last week.”
Steel Valley got a leadoff single from Joe Kraft followed by three very hard-hit balls in the bottom of the sixth inning, but all of the line drives landed in Philipsburg-Osceola fielders’ gloves.
Terevon Harris’ double gave the Ironmen runners at second and third with one out in the final inning, and Noah Donis’ RBI grounder broke up Whitehead’s shutout. The sophomore hurler, who earned his 10th win of the season and dropped his ERA under 2.00, recovered to get Haley to fly out and end the game.
“That’s the way it goes sometimes,” Steel Valley coach Pat Loughran said. “The third and fourth time we see a pitcher, we really make adjustments and square some balls up. We did that today and hit some balls hard, but they were right at people. Credit to (Whitehead), he kept making quality pitches. He came right at us and didn’t back down.”
Philipsburg-Osceola will play Franklin, a 3-2 winner over Freeport, in the PIAA quarterfinals on Thursday at a site and time to be determined.
“We made a run in 2001 and 2003 and won a state playoff game in 2012,” Sankey said. “We beat Bald Eagle in 2007 when they won a state title. I try to relay those stories to the guys. It has been done before. Thursday will be tough, but we just need to keep competing. Anything can happen.”
PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (3): McDonald 2b 400, Gustkey 1b 411, Soltis 3b 210, Shaw c 200, Slogosky cr 000, Martin cf 010, Dixon dh 301, J. Whitehead lf 300, R. Whitehead 301, Pellerite cr 000, Jones rf 301, Kephart ss 101. Totals — 23-3-5
STEEL VALLEY (1): Haley ss-p 301, Kraft 3b-ss 301, Good lf 200, Miller c 300, Fossick 2b 300, Harhai p-1b 301, Vehec cr 000, Bayus cf 210, Harris 1b-3b 301, Guzzi rf 000, Donis dh 300. Totals — 25-1-4
SCORE BY INNINGS
Philipsburg-Osceola 000 003 0 — 3 5 1
Steel Valley 000 000 1 — 1 4 0
E–Soltis. 2B–Dixon, Harris. RBI–Dixon 2, R. Whitehead, Donis. SB–Jones.
Philipsburg-Osceola: R. Whitehead (W) — 7 IP, 4H, 2BB, 5K, 1R, 1ER, 98 pitches
Steel Valley: Harhai (L) — 5 2/3 IP, 3H, 4BB, 9K, 3R, 3ER, 107 pitches; Haley — 1 1/3 IP, 2H, 0BB, 0K, 0R, 0ER, 18 pitches.
Records: Steel Valley (13-9); Philipsburg-Osceola (16-8)