Kendra Carns has earned her spot in the Philipsburg-Osceola lineup with her defensive ability, routinely making great catches in center field.
Offensively, she’s been a work in progress. Or was. A change in her grip has turned her into a threat in the eighth spot in the batting order, evidenced Thursday when she banged out a pair of hits — including a double — and drove in three runs in P-O’s 7-0 win over Huntingdon. She was the only two-hit player in either lineup.
“We started doing that on the first day of practice this year. We felt we had to go to the split grip,” said Lady Mounties coach Jim Gonder, explaining that Carns grips the bat with her hands several inches apart instead of tight together in a traditional grip. “It keeps her bat angle better, and it is working. It has helped her a lot. And she’s a heck of a center fielder too.”
Carns was skeptical about the unorthodox grip at first.
“I didn’t know if it would work,” she said. “It felt different. It took a lot of practice to get used to it. But it’s helped me make better contact.”
And it helped her Thursday against Huntingdon’s Amanda Norris, who has an unusual delivery.
“I just watched her release point at the hip and went from there,” Carns said. “It seems like everything is going at once with her, so I just watched her release.”
Carns got the Lady Mounties going with her first RBI of the game when she flared a single into shallow center field with two outs to drive in Madison Lucas, who had singled to start the second inning.
And her two-out double in the third drove in P-O’s final two runs in a five-run uprising that put P-O comfortably ahead, 6-0.
“I was just trying to do something to get my team going,” she said.
Hannah Thompson started the rally for P-O with a one-out single. She scored when winning pitcher Kam Harris singled to center and the ball got past Sierra Thompson and rolled to the fence. Jayde Burge followed with a double to score Harris. Burge scored on a throwing error, and Carns blew the game open with her double to left that scored Lucas, who had reached on an error, and Rachel Simpson, who had singled.
It was similar to the six-run rally Bellefonte mounted in a 7-4 win over the Lady Bearcats on Tuesday.
“Our defense was shaky, and they hit the ball hard,” Huntingdon coach Chris Patrick said. “That’s a bad combination for us. And they made some nice plays on defense. Plus, we looked at too many strikes.”
Huntingdon went 1-2 against county teams this week, beating Penns Valley while losing to Bellefonte and P-O.
“If we want to be there,” Patrick said, referring to the upper echelon of Mountain League teams, “we know we have to beat those teams. We’re making small steps, but we’re coming.”
Harris didn’t make it easy on Huntingdon. She struck out eight and walked none, while scattering six hits throughout the Huntingdon lineup.
“She got ahead in the count, and our defense did what we needed to do,” Gonder said. “We played a pretty nice game. Other than that hiccup the other day against Central (a loss), we’ve been playing well defensively.”