SPRING MILLS — When it hopped on the bus Thursday afternoon, the Philipburg-Osceola softball team left behind a field that still had a little snow behind home plate .
“It’s real soupy,” first baseman Mackenzie Gonder said of the home infield.
The weather wasn’t much warmer at Penns Valley, but Lady Mounties were happy to finally get their season started.
The three-time defending District 6 Class AA champions got solid pitching and power from the veterans, and an offensive spark from three new players as P-O topped Penns Valley 6-1.
Kate Burge tossed a four-hitter, while Aisha Goss and Mackenzie Burge blasted home runs on a cool, blustery day.
Lady Mounties coach Jim Gonder wasn’t complaining about the weather, pleased to see his team in action somewhere outside of the P-O gymnasium.
“We need to play some games,” Gonder said. “I don’t mind being bunched up at the end of the year with a lot of games, but I’d like to get some games in because we have a pretty young team. There’s a lot of freshmen and sophomores on that team and they need to play.”
Freshmen Haylee Hayward and Alyssa Shedlock and sophomore Megan Bainey, all playing in their first varsity games, got the Lady Mounties’ offense going.
With two outs in the second, Hayward, the No. 7 hitter, grounded a single into left field on her first varsity swing. Lefty-swinging Shedlock then lined a double into the left-center field gap to chase home Hayward. Bainey followed with an RBI single to left to give the Lady Mounties a 2-0 lead.
“The bottom of the order did a nice job,” Gonder said. “That was a big jump start getting a couple of runs. Their first varsity at-bats were all hits.”
An inning later, it was sophomore Mackenzie Burge and senior Goss doing the damage against Penns Valley starter Maggie Lynch. With one out, Burge turned on an inside fastball and cleared the right field fence for her third career home run.
“It was my favorite pitch inside and I didn’t want to waste it,” Burge said. “I just swung and made good contact.”
With two outs, Abby Showers drew a walk and set the stage for Goss, who had flown out deep in her first at-bat. Goss crushed another inside fastball deep over the left-center fence to make the score 5-0.
“It’s a pretty good feeling just knowing I hit the ball and got runs in,” Goss said. “It’s nice to get and play for the first time.”
“That’s a well-oiled machine Jim has over there,” Penns Valley coach Don Lucas said. “We got behind in the count and got the ball over the plate and they jump all over it. That’s what they do well.”
Kate Burge kept the Lady Rams off-balance early and allowed just one hit through the first five innings.
Trailing 6-0 following Hayward’s RBI double in the top of the sixth, the Lady Rams broke through in the bottom of the inning. With one out and Megan Houser aboard via a walk, Ashley Struble singled off the base of the fence in left-center and Madisyn Sharer singled off the the fence in dead center to load the bases. If the wind had not been blowing in, both shots would have had a chance to get out. Tangie Lyons followed with an RBI groundout, but Burge got out of the inning with another grounder.
Burge walked three and struck out seven.
Hayward, a freshman thrird baseman, and Shedlock, who filled in for McKayla Myers at second base, impressed first baseman Mackenzie Burge. “We’ve got great middle infielders,” said Burge, who along with Hayward had two hits. “We have two freshmen that really shined today. They really impressed us. We can’t wait to see what they can do.”
Gonder said the contest was a solid opener.
“Overall, I’m pleased with how we played and I thought Penns Valley played well, too,” Gonder said. “They were hitting the ball well at the end of the game.”
Sharer had two hits for the Lady Rams.
“Defensively, we’re playing well,” said Lucas, whose squad has dropped games to District 6 champion P-O and runner-up Central to open the season. “We just don’t have the bats, yet. If you don’t hit the ball and score runs, you’re not going to win that many ballgames. ... I told the gals, it’s very early in the season and we’ll mesh together very soon. I’d like to be 2-0 right now, but those are pretty good teams.”
P-O is scheduled to host Bald Eagle Area on Friday, while Penns Valley travels to Huntingdon.
Follow Walt Moody on Twitter @wmoodycdt