Philipsburg-Osceola pitcher Kate Burge remembers a game from her freshman season when the Lady Mounties were spanked by Bald Eagle Area.
It felt eerily similar to a 14-1 shellacking P-O received this season at the hands of Bellefonte.
Both times, the Lady Mounties responded.
In 2010, they rebounded to make a run to the state finals. This season, theyve won 11 straight heading into todays 5 p.m. clash against Neshannock in the opening round of the PIAA Class AA softball tournament at Penn States Nittany Lion Field.
In my ninth grade year, we lost to Bald Eagle pretty bad, said Burge, who has allowed just six hits in four postseason wins. Its kind of the same concept once we lost we realized how much we wanted it and it made us want that much more. Thats what happened with Bellefonte this year.
Veteran coach Jim Gonder is not sure what to make of one of the worst losses hes seen in 29 years at the helm of his program, but the numbers dont lie.
Philipsburg-Osceola (20-4) is hitting .385 as a team in the last 11 games, a more than 100-point jump. Kate Burge (.500), Haley Frank (.484), Aisha Goss (.483), Mackenzie Burge (.472) and Abby Showers (.471) are blistering at the plate and the Lady Mounties have outscored their opponents by a whopping 95-21 margin.
Wow. I dont know if that triggered anything, but I know it left a bad taste in their mouths and it left a bad taste in my mouth, Gonder said. First of all, Bellefonte is a very good team. Second of all, it did kind of kick us in the butt a little bit. I guess we used it as a positive because weve been streaking since then and playing real well.
Players say that the game was definitely a wakeup call and sharpened their focus on the rest of the season.
We were thinking, What just happened?, said No. 9 hitter Katie Carpin, who had three hits and drove in four runs in a 13-5 win over Central in the District 6 title game last Wednesday. We had to rebound to think, Hey, theres more season to play. Our main goal is to win the Mountain League, districts and states. Weve kept our eyes on the prize the whole time.
Of course a loss like that is always going to bring you down, but its in the past and you have to focus on your future and to push through it to get to this point where youre at, added Frank, who had three hits and drove in three against Central. We all wanted to come back and win as much as we could and just forget about that game.
Gonder said his team needed time to gel. While he brought back several players from last seasons state title team, many were in new spots.
Theres some experience coming back, but theres seven out of nine positions where were brand new, he said. Its taken awhile to get the chemistry going together.
Third baseman Frank, one of those new starters, said being on the bench during last seasons PIAA run was a benefit.
It was a good feeling, even not being able to do anything, she said. Just being around it, the vibe of everything was so great. ... It just feels really good being a part of a winning team.
The Lady Mounties will face a tough opening-round opponent. Neshannock (20-1) was the top seed and unbeaten before falling 2-0 to eventual champion Deer Lakes in the WPIAL semifinals. The Lady Lancers edged Riverside 3-2 to make the PIAA field.
Pitcher Amanda Furst did the damage against Riverside, tossing a seven-hitter with eight strikeouts. She also blasted a solo shot over the left-center field fence, her fourth homer of the season.
Shortstop Jamie Grazianis leaping catch ended a rally in the seventh as Neshannock beat Riverside for the third time. Madisyn Altmyer also is a dangerous hitter.
The Lady Lancers will run into a P-O team thats eyeing another deep PIAA run.
Were so confident right now, Kate Burge said. If someone strikes out, we know that the next person is going to produce. We know if someone misses a ball, that the next person will get the out. Were meshing really well as team right now.
Walt Moody can be reached at 231-4630. Follow him on Twitter @wmoodycdt