Just one swing of the bat can change a game.
Madison Lucas swung that bat — and the emotional pendulum — for the Philipsburg-Osceola softball team Monday afternoon at O’Leary Fields.
In a tight duel between rivals Bellefonte and the Lady Mounties, Lucas crushed the ball to right-center field for a three-run home run in the third frame to help P-O to a 7-2 victory.
“It felt like it took them down and brought us up,” Lucas said about her big hit.
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It was more than enough to back pitcher Kam Harris, who gave up six hits with three strikeouts and no walks for the win, with both runs unearned.
P-O’s Maggie Peck also cracked a two-run homer and added a double, while Hannah Thompson was 3 for 4 with an RBI double.
The outcome left a three-way tie atop the Mountain League with the Lady Raiders (8-2), Lady Mounties (7-1) and Central all showing 6-1 league records. It also starts a busy week of six games in six days for P-O, including a showdown with Bald Eagle Area on Tuesday.
“Hopefully this is an energizer for us for this week,” P-O coach Jim Gonder said. “Hope it starts us up, because it doesn’t get any easier.”
In all, the Lady Mounties collected eight hits off Tara Baney, who had been masterful all season. She struck out three and walked three.
“We were expecting some heat,” Lucas said. “We were in the batting cage with the pitching machine all season preparing for it.”
Until Monday, Baney and the Lady Raiders had not surrendered more than four runs in a game all season.
P-O was able to get to the senior fireballer with a combination of aggressiveness and patience. The Lady Mounties worked a lot of deep counts, and several batters had numerous two-strike foul balls to make the senior work more.
“The more pitches we make her throw, the more we see,” Gonder said. “Hopefully we can make better contact.”
It was a matter of seizing the opportunity when Baney made a mistake.
“She threw well,” Bellefonte coach Fred Caldwell said. “She missed her spots a few times and that came back (to get her). They’re a very good team. They’re going to make you pay for that. You cannot afford to miss your spots against a team like that.”
The first big hit came from Peck, belting a full-count pitch off the center field fence in the third inning for a double. Thompson then drilled the very next pitch for a double to score Peck. After a full-count walk and strikeout, Lucas pounced on the first pitch she saw, driving the ball almost to the trees beyond the fence in right.
“That was big,” Gonder said. “A single would score two runs, but that ball just kept carrying and carrying.”
Lucas said she was just trying to make contact, but as the ball left her bat it felt just like her first homer of the season April 11 at Central.
“We worked hard for this,” Lucas said. “They’re a really good team.”
P-O got some insurance in the fourth when Sadie Granville dropped in a two-out single and Peck delivered her homer over the left field fence off Baney.
“We needed to be aggressive,” Gonder said. “She’s not going to walk you. So they had to dig in and take good swings at the ball.”
P-O’s other run crossed in the first when Thompson walked, stole second and scored on a Harris single.
In the circle, Harris didn’t go to a full count to any batter after the second inning. She baffled the Lady Raider hitters just enough, inducing 10 fly outs — including seven to the outfield.
“We work very hard on hitting line drives and not hitting fly balls,” Caldwell said. “I’m disappointed that we hit so many. To their pitcher’s credit, she did a great job getting us behind in the count.”
Baney and Rianna Trexler each hit a double, with Trexler driving in a run in the first, and Emma DeHaas scored both Lady Red Raider runs.
It wasn’t the kind of game Bellefonte was seeking as it also was starting a busy week with three more games over the next four days.
“We didn’t perform when we needed to,” Caldwell said. “We had some bad at-bats. We need to work at being a little more disciplined, not getting behind on the count so early.”