Philipsburg-Osceola coach Doug Sankey didn’t think his team was ready to play against Central on Monday.
The Mounties didn’t have anyone hitting in their batting cage 45 minutes before the game, and they struggled at the plate in the first four innings. In the visitor’s dugout, Central was locked in with its pitcher asking to take the mound in a battle of unbeatens and its lineup looking to atone for its performance last season against P-O starting pitcher Josh Earnest.
The difference in focus showed as the Mounties fell 10-5 to the Scarlet Dragons.
“Any time you can come to Philipsburg and get a win, you’re pretty happy,” Central coach A.J. Hoenstine said. “We’ve had some great battles with them over the years. They have a pretty good tradition as do we. This is a big win for us.”
Philipsburg-Oscola and Central both went into Monday’s game with 3-0 records, and though it’s early in the season, Hoenstine made sure his players knew they were playing another undefeated team. It wasn’t lost on Dragons pitcher Jarrett Imler, who wasn’t scheduled to take the mound after earning a win against Bald Eagle Area last Wednesday. But he asked to pitch and went six innings to earn the win with the help of two five-run innings by Central’s offense.
Imler, a first-team Mountain League pitcher last year, held Philipsburg-Osceola scoreless in the first four innings and improved his record to 3-0 this season.
Sankey pointed to the team’s lacking preparation for its start at the plate.
“You say it four or five times, ‘Go to the cage,’” Sankey said. “But, sooner or later, guys have to take it upon themselves to want to go over there and get ready.”
Going into the game, Central talked about facing Earnest, who was dominant on the mound in an 11-0 win over the Dragons early last season. On Monday, the Dragons laid off his offspeed pitches and hit his fastball, scoring five runs on four hits in the second inning to take control.
“He pretty much embarrassed us last year, two-hitting us at our place,” Hoenstine said of Earnest.
Central’s Chase Smith started the second inning with a triple and scored on a single by Hunter Liebal, and Imler delivered with a two-run triple to push the lead to 3-0. Central finished the inning with a 5-0 lead and added five more runs in the top of the sixth against Mounties reliever Cam Domblisky to take a 10-2 lead.
Imler, Central’s No. 9 hitter, added an RBI single in that inning as Central cruised to the win behind its approach at the plate.
“For the last 20 years, you rarely see those guys swing at balls out of the strike zone,” Sankey said. “They’re really disciplined. That frustrates a pitcher.”
The Dragons put together a solid all-around performance to come out on top in the early season showdown, while the Mounties failed to produce at the plate early and committed four errors in their first loss.
Sankey’s team will look to bounce back against Tyrone on Tuesday.
“We have a good team, a good nucleus,” Sankey said. “And I think we’ll just come back tomorrow, learn from it.”