High school softball: Philipsburg-Osceola rallies past Central in final at-bat

April 11, 2014 

— Before his team batted in the top of the seventh inning Thursday, Central coach Dale Walters gathered the girls at the corner of the dugout, gestured toward the scoreboard which showed the Lady Dragons leading Philipsburg-Osceola 5-2, and said, “That’s not enough.”

Thanks to a precocious freshman, the Lady Mounties proved him right as they rallied for four runs in the bottom of the inning for a 6-5 Mountain League victory.

“We knew coming up here that sometimes 10 runs isn’t enough,” Walters said. “You know they’re going to hit. They’re well coached and very disciplined. They’re good. They’re experienced and there is a tradition here. They hold each other accountable. That’s why they compete for the district championship every year. They believe.”

That belief was tested by the Lady Dragons in a playoff-caliber battle that wasn’t decided until P-O freshman Maggie Peck singled sharply up the middle to drive in the winning run with one out in the bottom of the seventh.

With one out, the Lady Mounties mounted a rally that started with Haley Frank’s single down the left field line. Two pitches later, Haylee Hayward homered to center to cut the Central lead to 5-4. Then came four straight singles by McKenzie Burge, Abby Showers, Megan Bainey, who drove in the tying run, and Peck, who drove in Showers with the game-winner. It was the second big hit of the day for the freshman who had a solo homer to right-center in the fourth after Central had taken a 5-1 lead.

“After Hayley hit that homer, I was thinking, ‘good, now all we need is to get someone on,’” said P-O coach Jim Gonder. “I felt confident then.”

Peck was equally confident when she stepped into the batter’s box with the game on the line.

“I went to talk to her and she just said, ‘It’s just a game. I’m having fun,’” Gonder related. “I said ‘great,’ and walked away.”

Peck credited part of her confidence to the fact that while she’s a freshman this is her third varsity sport. She played soccer in the fall and basketball during the winter.

“I’m used to pressure,” she said. “I was really calm when I was at bat. I knew I needed to show my team I could help them when they needed it. Coming into the season, I knew I would have a lot of responsibility playing second base and I wanted to show my teammates I could contribute.”

After the Lady Mounties had scored a solo run in the third on an RBI single by Showers, Peck homered in the fourth.

“That felt amazing,” she said. “I had never hit a home run before. I knew when I hit it it was gone. I could feel it.”

The homer came after the Lady Dragons took advantage of a pair of walks, two errors, three fielder’s choices and a single to take a 5-1 lead against Chelsey Henry. Two of the runs scored on an errors by Showers, another came on a bases-loaded walk to Cassidi Barnes, one came on an infield out by Janine Snyder and one scored on fielder’s choice by Lexi Ritchey.

“That could have been worse,” Gonder said. “But we fought through that and that could be a good thing for us. Chelsey pitched a good inning.”

The loss was the second of the year for the Dragons, who lost to BEA earlier in the season. BEA will entertain P-O today in a battle of unbeatens at Milesburg.

“I think we have a really good team,” Walters said. “They don’t have to take a back seat to anyone. Here we are, seven games into the season, and we haven’t hit yet. But we’re gonna hit.”

P-O got to Ritchey for 11 hits Thursday, three of them for extra bases. And while Gonder likes his offense, what he really liked Thursday was the way his team overcame adversity to beat a quality opponent.

“Every game we’ve played we’ve had one inning where we’ve scored a bunch of runs,” he said. “We know we can score. But in a game this early in the season, for them to be able to say that they came back the way they did, will carry some weight later on in the year. This could be more than just a win. This could be a defining game.”

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