P-O advances to D-6 final|
Friday, May 24, 2013
By Rich Murawski Assistant Sports Editor PHILIPSBURG - Philipsburg-Osceola's Carly Gonder has been in a bit of a funk at the plate this year.
The undeniable Lady Mountie leader started the year batting 7-for-39 (.179 average) before a drop in the lineup seemed to get her going.
But after a six-game hitting streak to end the regular season, Gonder didn't have a hit in the first two P-O playoff games.
That all changed during Thursday's District 6 Class AA semifinal at Curtis Park as Gonder's two hits and three RBIs helped lift the Lady Mounties to a 5-2 victory over Bellwood-Antis in a battle of defending District 6 champions.
"I try to stay confident," Gonder said. "My last two years, I played much better than I have this year. But I have my whole team behind me and they look to me, so I know I can't get down on myself.
"I just have to keep working and keep trying, and I have to come through when they need me, and I did today."
With the Lady Mounties leading 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Gonder stepped to the plate with two outs and runners on second and third.
After taking a strike from Lady Blue Devil pitcher Taylor Payne, Gonder scorched a single to left field to plate Abby Showers and Haylee Hayward to give P-O a very important 4-0 edge.
"That was up in the strike zone, and she kind of likes it up there," Philipsburg-Osceola head coach Jim Gonder said. "She took it down the third base line, and we got a couple runs. That was great."
And Carly Gonder wasn't done either.
After Bellwood scored two runs in the top of the sixth inning to make things much tighter, Gonder strolled to the plate with one out in the home half of the frame and crushed a 1-2 pitch over the wall in centerfield for a big insurance run and a confidence-builder for a team shaken by the developments in the game a half-inning earlier.
"Having her hit that home run was just incredible," said Showers, who was the first to greet Gonder at home plate as an emphatic celebration ensued. "We got a little down in the field (in the top of the sixth). But having her hit that home run just brought our confidence back up and helped us feel relaxed and calm again."
"It felt good," Carly Gonder said of the mob that greeted her at home plate. "They are so supportive, and the underclassmen are amazing. I look up to them as much as they look up to me."
Lady Mountie pitcher Kate Burge gave up a one-out single to Scarlett Kirkpatrick in the top of the seventh before setting Bellwood's 1-2 hitters down to cinch the win.
Burge tossed a complete game, allowing two runs - one earned - on seven hits. She walked one batter and struck out six.
And she also survived a big scare in the sixth.
Bellwood started the inning with consecutive singles by Anna Wolfe, Emily Nagle and Jacqueline Finn. Finn's base hit scored Wolfe to cut the Lady Devils deficit to three, 4-1.
After a strikeout, an outfield error allowed Nagle to score and put Finn on third and Payne on second with just one out.
But Burge dug down and was able to strike out the next two Lady Devil batters to get out of the inning with no further damage done.
She also struck out two batters with two runners on in the fifth inning.
"I thought she threw well," Coach Gonder said. "She has to start staying within herself. She gets juiced up, obviously. It's a big game.
"So she needs to learn to calm it down a little bit because she did get a little juiced up. But I thought she threw a great ball game. She got us out of some jams."
Burge also benefited from some stellar defense behind her.
Showers turned in the first defensive gem in the top of the second with two Lady Devils on base and no one out.
Bellwood's Kelsey Decker sent a ball toward the hole between short and second, but Showers was able to range to her left, glove the ball, step on second for one out and fire to first baseman Kenzie Gonder to complete a much-needed double play.
"That was probably the best feeling ever," Showers said of her big play. "I saw that the ball was hit up the middle, and at practice every day if anything is hit to my left, I just take it myself. It's easier to get the double play that way, and at practice we strive for double plays. That's what we want.
"So it was hit up the middle, and I thought, ‘hey, why not go for it.' "
Left fielder Aisha Goss came up with her own highlight reel play in the fourth inning when she made a diving catch of a ball off the bat of Finn with a runner on first and nobody out.
"We played well defensively," Coach Gonder said. "We had the double play in the (second) inning and then Aisha had that catch in left field. Those are pretty big plays early in the ball game. That could have opened the door for some runs had we not made those plays."
While Showers' defensive wizardry likely saved a run or two in the top of the second inning, her bat put a charge into the Lady Mounties in the bottom of the frame.
After taking two pitches from Payne, Showers picked out a curveball and sent it over the fence in the left center field to stake P-O to a 1-0 lead. It was Showers' second homer in as many games and fifth of the season.
"We scouted the pitcher and we knew she was throwing a curve," Showers said. "I took the first pitch and saw it was a curve, and I knew the next one was going to be a rise. So I just told myself to get ready for the curve.
"So when it started going outside, I just went with the pitch and it went flying. I didn't even know it went out until I rounded second base."
"She's definitely a sparkplug for us," Coach Gonder said. "She made a great play defensively and then came in and hit that home run. That was a good start for us. It got the kids fired up."
P-O added to its lead in the bottom of the third, thanks to a double down the line and some small ball.
Megan Bainey provided the double and Alyssa Shedlock and Haley Frank followed with back-to-back sacrifice bunts. Frank's squeeze bunt scored Bainey for a 2-0 advantage.
"Our short game was good," Coach Gonder said. "We've been hitting the ball really well all year, but we understand the pitching gets better the further you go in the playoffs and you better be able to have a short game.
"We worked a while on that and the kids have bought into it. It doesn't matter who it is, we'll put the ball on the ground. I thought the squeeze at that point was a big play."
Bellwood-Antis outhit the Lady Mounties, 7-5. But P-O converted a few more scoring opportunities, and Carly Gonder picked the best time of the season to have perhaps her two best at-bats.
"Carly was clutch today," Coach Gonder said. "That's what we need. That's what we need a kid like that to do. It's been a tough year for her, and that kind of validated why we have faith in her."
"She hit the ball awesome today," Showers said. "I couldn't be any more proud of her. She's a great captain. She's a great teammate, and she's also one of my really good friends."
Payne allowed just five P-O hits and walked two, while striking out four. Only three of the five runs she gave up were earned.
"We knew Bellwood had a good team, obviously," Coach Gonder said. "I've been hearing about Payne, and she lived up to expectations.
"She lived with the curveball and tried to throw the rise. We made sure our kids were disciplined and didn't swing at high pitches."
With the win, P-O improved to 20-1 overall and advances to the D-6 Class AA title game against Ligonier Valley Wednesday at Beard Field at a time to be determined.
The 10th-seeded Lady Rams clipped 14th seed Huntingdon, 4-3, in Thursday's other semifinal.
The win also gave the Lady Mounties a spot in the PIAA playoffs regardless of the outcome of Wednesday's contest.
"We had hopes of playing for another district title, and we had hopes of getting into the state playoffs and we accomplished both today," Coach Gonder said. "Those dreams are still alive."
PINCH HITS: The Lady Mounties are the defending D-6 Class AA champs, while Bellwood-Antis won the Class A title last year before bumping to AA this season ... Burge upped her record to 17-0 ... The seven hits by Bellwood match the most given up by Burge in a game this season. She also allowed seven in a 16-3 win at Tyrone ... Showers has hit safely in 19 of P-0's 21 games and has 29 RBIs and 25 runs scored.
Wolfe 2b 4110, Nagle cf 4120, Finn c 3011, Snyder ss 3010, Payne 2000, Decker 1b 3010, Morgan pr 0000, Clark 3b 3000, Schildt rf 3000, Kirkpatrick dp 3010, Harris (flex) lf 0000. Totals: 28-2-7-1.
Frank rf 2001, Ke. Burge 1b 2000, Ka. Burge p 3000, Showers ss 2221, Hayward 3b 3100, Goss lf 3000, Gonder c 3123, Bainey cf 2110, Shedlock dp 2000, Myers (flex) 2b 0000. Totals: 22-5-5-5.
Score by Innings
Bellwood-Antis À 000Á002Á0-2Á7Á3
Errors-Snyder, Finn, Clark; Goss, Bainey. LOB-Bellwood-Antis 5, Philipsburg-Osceola 4. DP-Philipsburg-Osceola 1. 2B-Bainey. HR-Showers (solo, 2nd), Gonder (solo, 6th). SAC-Shedlock, Frank, Ke. Burge. SB-Showers. WP-Ka. Burge.
Bellwood-Antis: Payne-6 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO.
Philipsburg-Osceola: Ka. Burge-7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO.
WP-Ka. Burge (17-0). LP-Payne.