As Kam Harris dug her dirt-covered cleat into the mound, a smattering of Philipsburg-Osceola softball fans rose to their feet.
With two strikes and two outs in the top of the seventh inning — in a moment filled with anticipation — Harris gave P-O supporters what they wanted. The sophomore ace induced a pop-up to second baseman Sadie Granville, who settled under it and clenched the yellow softball tightly in her glove.
Thanks in large part to Harris’ stellar stuff in the circle, the Lady Mounties captured their second consecutive district crown. P-O clinched its eighth title in the last 12 years and 12th all-time with a 2-0 win over Ligonier Valley on Wednesday night at Nittany Lion Softball Park in the District 6 Class 3A championship.
P-O (16-3) — after ousting the Lady Rams (20-3) — plays Pequea Valley, the No. 2 seed out of District 3, on Monday in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.
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“It’s one of those things where we have goals in the beginning of the season,” Lady Mounties coach Jim Gonder said with a smile. “Obviously a district championship was one of those goals.”
And Harris’ arm helped P-O accomplish it.
The reliable, dominant hurler had a typical outing, allowing four hits and striking out seven. Harris needed only 71 pitches to navigate seven innings.
Now, Harris has been in this position before. As a freshman, she tossed a two-hitter in last year’s district title win over Bald Eagle Area.
“Kam thrives on the pressure,” P-O catcher Kylie Thal said. “The adrenaline really gets her going. It really works in her favor.”
Added Gonder: “This was her best-pitched game of the year.”
Harris tossed a no-hitter two weeks ago, but she never faltered on Wednesday. Gonder was especially impressed with Harris’ control and poise, which was on display from the get-go with a 1-2-3, two-strikeout first inning.
And in the bottom half of that first frame, Harris got her only run support. Madison Lucas drilled a sacrifice fly to left field, deep enough to score Maggie Peck from third, and then Harris drove in Hannah Thompson with a deep shot to center.
That’s all the Lady Mounties managed offensively, which was a surprise. P-O entered Wednesday’s game having scored 71 runs in its last six games.
But, thankfully for the Lady Mounties, all they really needed was one. Harris did the rest.
“Having the two runs on the board was comforting,” the pitcher said. “It allowed me to just go out there and do my thing.”
Harris struck out two in the second inning and then one in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings. She used only 24 pitches in the final three frames, cruising through the Ligonier Valley lineup with relative ease.
“It was a quick game,” Gonder said of the 75-minute contest. “I’m just glad we were on the 2-0 side of it.”
Harris, while only surrendering a few hits, did have to get out of a few jams — most importantly, one in the top of the seventh. Ligonier Valley’s Abby Turcheck tripled with two outs, putting the tying run at the plate.
But Thal wasn’t concerned. “Never,” the catcher said.
She had faith in Harris. The ace handled Abi Cmar, inducing the game-ending pop-up and clinching P-O’s district title.
The celebration was filled with smiles, but the Lady Mounties were quick to eye the state tournament. After being eliminated in the PIAA second round in 2016, P-O doesn’t want a repeat performance.
Using the district championship and a nine-game winning streak as confidence boosters, the Lady Mounties are prepared for what’s ahead.
“I think we’re going to bring our A-game all the time,” Thal said. “We have teammates that are going to back us up. Even if they’re not playing, everyone in the dugout has an important role on the team. Knowing that, it brings us together as a team. It helps us bring our A-game.”
And P-O will need it on Monday.