When Philipsburg-Osceola coach Doug Sankey constructs his roster, he looks for players who can handle multiple positions.
Freshman Keegan Soltis showed that versatility going into the season — he can play first base, third base and catcher in addition to pitching — and earned a spot on the varsity roster. He also showed he can hit as Sankey said the ball jumped off his bat, and he quickly carved out a spot in the lineup.
Soltis recorded his first career hit and drove in two runs Wednesday to contribute to the Mounties’ 9-2 win over Penns Valley.
“I knew he was a really good player,” Sankey said. “He’s a better hitter than I even thought he was.”
Soltis, Landon McDonald and Micah Martin each finished with two hits, while Josh Bryan paced P-O with three hits. The Mounties scored their first five runs with two outs to take a commanding lead in support of winning pitcher Gage Coudriet.
Soltis played a role in the strong start with a two-out, one-run single in the first inning.
After Brandon Kephart sent a two-run single into left field with two outs in the first, Soltis singled past Rams shortstop Nate Gillespie to push the Mounties ahead 3-0.
In the fourth inning, Philipsburg-Osceola burned Penns Valley with two outs again on a two-run double by Martin to center field.
“We had ’em at two outs twice, and they killed us two times,” said Rams coach Jon Bowersox, whose team fell to 0-3 this season.
Philipsburg-Osceola, meanwhile, is off to a 3-0 start with Soltis in the lineup.
The freshman knew he would have an opportunity to play on the varsity team this season.
“The spot was there,” said Soltis, who went 2 for 3 on Wednesday. “I just got to work hard.”
Soltis is surrounded by a handful of players who earned playing time as freshmen in the past few years — and many of them played key roles during Wednesday’s win.
Junior Josh Earnest and senior Logan Williamson scored the team’s first two runs after recording a single and double, respectively, in the first inning. Martin finished with two doubles, and Coudriet limited Penns Valley to one run in five innings to earn the win.
Sankey said Earnest, Martin and Coudriet each went through growing pains when they played during their freshman campaigns.
“Logan not so much,” Sankey said with a laugh while referring to his four-year starter at shortstop. “They’re going to have some failures. We play in a really tough league, so I think that’s what I just try to talk to the young kids about, ‘You’re going to get out. That’s going to happen. Just don’t think you need to get a hit every time up.’”
Soltis said he was nervous in the team’s first two games, serving as the team’s designated hitter in the season opener and playing third base in the second game.
But Sankey said the freshman still put together quality at-bats.
In the lineup as the team’s first baseman Wednesday, Soltis singled for his first hit in the first inning and showed that pop with a double to right field in the fifth.
“You could tell it was only a matter of time,” Sankey said. “He wasn’t overmatched by any means being a freshman. He definitely deserves to be in there.”