Coming into Monday's PIAA Class AAA semifinal against Philipsburg-Osceola, the Southmoreland softball team was on a roll and that had Lady Mountie head coach Jim Gonder concerned.
After dispatching defending state champion South Park 12-1 in the WPIAL title game, the Scotties put up 27 runs in PIAA playoffs wins over Karns City and Central.
But the Lady Mounties brought that momentum to an abrupt halt at Red Flash Field, pounding out 13 hits, while piling up 11 runs over the final two innings of play in a 15-4 victory.
"I can't be happier. I didn't expect that at all," Gonder said. "This team has been playing hot. I was more afraid of their confidence and mojo. They had something going on there. They were the Cinderella. They were in uncharted territory. That was enough to scare us."
And for four innings, Southmoreland played right with the Lady Mounties, outhitting the District 6 champs 5-2 in a 2-2 ball game.
But with two swings of P-O senior shortstop Hannah Thompson's bat, the momentum was squarely in the Lady Mounties' dugout.
Thompson's leadoff double in the top of the fifth started a 2-run rally that gave P-O a 4-2 lead and knocked Southmoreland starting pitcher Jessica Matheny out of the circle, and her 2-run home run in the top of the sixth extended the advantage to 6-2 and seemed to open the floodgates for the Lady Mountie offense.
"It felt really good (to hit the home run)," Thompson said. "We needed to start hitting, and we did."
"Hannah's 2-run home run gave us the cushion we needed and gave us momentum and it kind of knocked them down a little bit," Gonder said. "It was a big hit for us. A big hit."
Two batters later, Kam Harris blasted a 2-run shot over the centerfield fence to make it 8-2 and prompt another pitching change for the Scotties.
"It felt great to hit that, but I'm just going off the momentum of my teammates," Harris said. "But I think that (Hannah's) home run definitely sparked something. After that, we all started hitting. She really helped the team come alive. I believe that, and that's exactly what teammates do."
While Thompson may have been the spark, it was Harris' consistency in the batter's box and in the circle that finished off the Scotties.
Harris was 3-for-3 with 6 RBIs with her bat, while tossing all seven innings and allowing just four runs on eight hits to a team averaging 13 runs per contest over its last three playoff games. Harris also fanned six batters.
Leading 8-2 after six innings, P-O put the exclamation point on the victory with a 7-run seventh inning that saw the Lady Mounties send 12 batters to the plate.
Harris and Jayde Burge each had RBI singles, Kylie Adams stroked a 2-run single, Kylie Thal clubbed a run-scoring double and Kendra Carns was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force home the final P-O run.
With the 13-run cushion heading into the bottom of the seventh, a relaxed Harris threw strikes and the Lady Mounties played for outs.
Southmoreland's Bethany Bunner gave her team a brief moment of hope with a 2-run homer, but Harris coaxed a groundout from No. 3 hitter Faith Miller and caught cleanup hitter Lexi Klatt looking at strike 3 to end the game.
"We were up by so much and that really helped me," Harris said. "They started to hit a little bit that last inning but knowing we had all those runs and knowing my teammates were behind me helped me close it."
The Lady Mounties now meet Holy Redeemer Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at Penn State University's Beard Field with the PIAA Class AAA title on the line.
"They had to fight and perform throughout the year and fortunately they did," Gonder said. "The expectations were so high and sometimes it can be tough to live up to them. But they did."