Despite loss, Lady Mounties still moving on|
Thursday, May 29, 2014
By Jon Christoff Sports Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK - The Philipsburg-Osceola softball team has had some memorable battles with Mountain League nemesis Bald Eagle Area over the course of Lady Mountie head coach Jim Gonder's tenure, and Wednesday's battle for the District 6 Class AA title at Penn State University's Beard Field was no exception.
After splitting a pair of one-run contests in the regular season, it only stands to reason that the pair of D-6 titans followed suit in their third meeting - which needed extra innings to boot.
No lead is safe when the teams take to the diamond, so the Lady Eagles' come-from-behind 5-4 win should come as no surprise to anyone who has been around either of the programs, especially throughout the last decade.
"I knew they were a good team and that they were going to threaten (our 4-0 lead)," said Gonder. "It was just a matter of how we responded.
"Their hitters produced and came up big in the clutch. We had some opportunities at the end of the game, but couldn't get the clutch hit."
If anyone is uncertain to the degree of the teams' dominance, all they have to do is look up who accounts for the last 12 D-6 AA crowns, and they'll see the letters P-O or BEA next to it.
Bald Eagle's rally from a 4-0 deficit marked the first time in five seasons that the Lady Mounties didn't capture the title, but there will be a silver lining for this year's edition of the P-O softball team that wasn't there after dropping a 7-4 decision to their arch rivals in 2009 - the Lady Mounties will still be continuing on in the PIAA tournament.
There was added pressure to capture the district title in the years leading up to the 2009 contest, which was the last time District 6 AA only sent one team into the state tournament.
Each team had returning state champions turned away by the other the following season, so Gonder's squad will be able to take some solace in that fact despite feeling the sting of the championship game loss.
"This game meant a lot to (the girls)," said Gonder, whose 2009 team finished with a 21-2 mark, "and it meant a lot to me, too.
"It may have been the first time we won five in a row and that would have been a big thing for us, but again we're going to get ready for practice tomorrow and get ready to play again.
"Our kids will bounce back. We'll look forward to a good game on Monday. ... I think we will bounce back, and I think we can make some noise. We have the potential to do well, and we're getting better. It's great that we have an extra chance."
A rematch in the state semifinals may be the only way to top Wednesday's contest, which had 1,100 people in attendance - not counting the people working the game.
While some of his better teams never got the opportunity, Gonder is glad this year's team has that chance to redeem itself against some of the best teams the state has to offer.
"It was a pretty neat atmosphere tonight," Gonder said, "and we were very lucky to be playing in that kind of atmosphere. ... I expected us to play a good game, and the kids responded.
"With a little bit of luck, we'll see these guys in two Mondays from now. That would be a great rematch."
With the schools locked in so many memorable battles over the years, it isn't surprising the amount of respect the coaches have for the other and their programs.
If it was up to Lady Eagles head coach Curt Heverly, the teams would meet again to see who gets to be the next District 6 team to play for a state title.
"I'm really glad they got to go," said Heverly. "We could play again in the semifinals. There are some tough teams that we both have to get by, but I'm going to tell you something ... that would be another great game.
"I have the utmost respect for (Gonder) and his program, and they might beat us this time because they're a good team.
"It's really good for this area, it really is. This was incredible."