When asked to choose, Kam Harris prefers to be standing at the plate with a bat than staring in from the pitcher’s circle.
With a .361 batting average and five home runs to her credit as the cleanup hitter for Philipsburg-Osceola (16-3), she does quite well there.
But the sophomore is pretty fond of her job as pitcher too.
“I like to be in charge of the game,” she said. “I like to be in control and knowing that whatever happens next could possibly be up to me. Having my teammates, I know they’ll take care of everything that gets by me.”
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Harris’ performance in both places has been a major reason the Lady Mounties’ softball team has gotten to where it is — District 6 Class 3A champions and a PIAA first-round date with Pequea Valley (17-6) at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Penn State’s Nittany Lion Softball Park.
Harris is pretty good at pitching. She has a 14-1 record with a 1.26 ERA, 96 strikeouts and just six walks. She tossed her first varsity no-hitter May 22 in the District 6 quarterfinals, striking out 10 in a 10-0 win against West Shamokin. Only an error prevented a perfect game, and she faced the minimum of 18 batters in the six-inning contest. She also didn’t allow a run in any of the district playoff games.
“She’s had great control when she’s ahead in the count,” coach Jim Gonder said. “We want her to get the first out of the inning and get ahead of batters, and she’s done that to perfection so far.”
Harris is not an overpowering pitcher, relying on an array of pitches and good control. She has a curve, a screwball and a riser, and they are working on a changeup. It may not lead to a pile of strikeouts, but the P-O defense has her back.
Harris is on her way to finding a place among the many impressive pitchers coached by Gonder during his 600-plus wins at P-O. One of them, Chelsea Rex, who went on to pitch at St. Francis, has been one of Harris’ tutors along with assistant coach Jerry Watkins.
“With her (Rex) as my role model,” Harris said, “I feel I have to do a lot of things like she did and accomplish the same goals.”
While Harris is confident in the circle, she also can relax knowing, if there should be a day when she doesn’t have her best stuff, help is ready.
Senior Maggie Peck, who had been the starting pitcher, can bring her change ups and drop balls to deliver more ground balls.
“(Harris) knows it’s not all on her shoulders,” Gonder said, happy his senior has been accepting her relief role. “If she has a bad day or is not feeling great, we can throw someone else in there, and that takes pressure off her.”
Freshman Kylie Adams also is ready with her 16 strikeouts in just 15 innings.
At the plate, Harris is a pretty solid threat with her 26 hits, nine for extra bases and 24 RBIs. She has struck out just twice in 82 plate appearances.
Plus, pretty frequently, there are Lady Mounties on base when she reaches the plate.
Peck, who is the leadoff hitter, is batting .388 with the added discipline of drawing a team-high 18 walks, and Hannah Thompson is batting .349. Then, No. 3 hitter Maddie Lucas is hitting a stunning .556 with eight homers, 29 RBIs and also just two strikeouts.
Monday’s game figures to be a showdown on the mound — and will really test the Lady Mounties’ batting skills.
The Braves are led by fireballer Sabrina Ryan, whose 250-plus strikeouts this season is best in Pennsylvania, according to maxpreps.com. She averages more than 13 strikeouts per game and has over 1,000 for her career, and had games with 18 and 19 strikeouts earlier this season. The Franklin and Marshall commit has two no-hitters to her credit this year and had three in 2016.
Having the likely home-field advantage at Penn State, where the Lady Mounties won the district title last week and district and PIAA first-round games last season, should help against Ryan.
“We know the crowd’s going to be big and it’s going to be loud,” Harris said. “We’re just going to have to be on our ‘A’ game. The fact we’re under the lights and stuff, that’s kind of a cool thing too. And our community is so supportive of us.”
It gives Harris even more confidence both hitting and pitching.
“I put in a lot of hard work to get to where I am today,” she said, “and in order to be successful on the mound, you have to be confident in your abilities and confident in your teammates.”
At Nittany Lion Softball Park, PSU
Class 4A: Bellefonte vs Yough, noon
Class 5A: Central Mountain vs Albert Gallatin, 2:30 p.m.
Class A: Conemaugh Valley vs South Side, 5 p.m.
Class 3A: Philipsburg-Osceola vs Pequea Valley, 7:30 p.m.
At Bald Eagle Area High School
Class 6A: State College vs. North Allegheny, 4 p.m.
Radio: Bellefonte, P-O softball on WBLF 970, 106.3, WPHB 1260