Philipsburg-Osceola softball coach Jim Gonder and two of his players each had their own perspective on what they just accomplished in winning the program's third PIAA title on Thursday afternoon.
After the Lady Mounties topped Holy Redeemer 8-3 in the Class 3A game at Penn State's Beard Field, Kam Harris said she's been waiting for this moment her entire life.
"It's awesome to be a state champion," the junior said. "I've been working hard all my life and my team has too."
Senior Kylie Thal wasn't sure how to describe what she helped do in her final high school game.
"I don't know if 'amazing' is the word," the leadoff hitter said. "I think it is even more than that. I don't know if there is a word to describe this emotion right now."
Gonder, who has coached all three of P-O's state title teams, was asked about his senior class. His response likely resonated with his whole team.
"We live on top the mountain, right?," he said. "They've climbed the mountain. They went from eight to four to champions. They've lived up to the pressure they had on them. They earned it."
The Lady Mounties knew coming in they were going to have to earn the state title because they had to face the Lady Royals' ace in Morgan Bienkowski.
Bienkowski came into the game giving up just nine runs all year and no more than two in a game. But Thal, Harris and Co. followed Gonder's game plan of staying disciplined at the plate — and saw immediate dividends.
The Lady Mounties ripped off five first-inning runs and forced Bienkowski to throw 40 pitches.
"It was unbelievably important," Gonder said of the start. "It's contagious when you hit. I think everyone thought, 'Oh, I can hit this girl,' because the entire lineup batted. They weren't coming back like, 'Coach, what's she doing?' It was, 'Stand in there and take your hacks.'"
Thal, who embraces the pressure of being the leadoff hitter, got things started with a double to left field. She was joined on the bases by the following batter in Hannah Thompson, who was hit by a pitch.
With one out, Harris worked her way to a full count and eventually got a walk to load the bases. Senior Jayde Burge followed with a dribbler in the infield for a fielder's choice single to score Thal, who slid into home to beat the throw for a 1-0 lead.
Kylie Adams then laced a single to left field, driving in two runners for a three-run advantage. But the Lady Mounties still weren't done.
Rachel Simpson hit a single up the middle of the infield to score Burge, and Adams came across for the final run of the inning on a wild pitch.
"Those five runs definitely gave me some insurance," said Harris, who earned a complete-game win in the circle. "I think it was a great confidence booster for us."
Added Thal: "It set the tone, and that's what we needed. Our dugout is very intense, and that's the reason why things happen."
Holy Redeemer coach Jerry Paulukonis knew his team was in trouble, but he also knew the game wasn't out of reach after the opening frame.
"It's tough in this game, but it's possible," he said of a potential comeback. "We brought it back to 5-3 and we were right back in it. A couple of key hits here and there, the game goes the other way."
The Lady Royals got back in thanks to a two-run home run from Allyson Laiuvara in the second inning, followed by a third run in the fourth inning to make it 5-3.
However, the Lady Mounties responded thanks to Harris. She came within inches of hitting a three-run home run in the bottom of the fourth. Instead, she settled for a two-run single that scored Thal and Madison Lucas to extend the lead to four runs.
"Kamryn is a very good ball player," Thal said. "I have a lot of confidence in her. There has not been a game where I don't know if she has it. She is on her game all the time."
Harris came through again for her teammates in the sixth inning and showed great composure in the circle.
After giving up two singles to start the inning, Harris got her sixth strikeout of the game. However, she then faced a crucial moment with the bases juiced after one of her teammates lost a pop fly in the sun.
"In that very moment," Harris said before she threw her next pitch, "I thought to myself I work better under pressure and my team is behind me. Everything is going to work out the way that it will be."
Harris' first pitch to Laiuvara was a pop out back to the catcher in Thal, who kept her mask on. Harris then struck out Lynzie Skoronski for the third time in the game on three straight pitches and she was out of the bases-loaded jam.
"She didn't have her best stuff. She is a competitor," Gonder said of his pitcher. "She is tough. She always has that extra gear when you need it. Even though she isn't going to throw the ball by you, she is going to nibble. You are going to chase it."
The Lady Mounties tacked on one more run in the bottom of the sixth inning when Lucas, who was the lone multiple hitter for P-O, drove in Thompson.
The future is bright for Philipsburg-Osceola softball as the program will lose just four seniors in Thal, Burge, Thompson and Lacey Potter. However, Gonder wasn't going to talk about next year so soon.
"I'm going to be honest with you," he said with a laugh. "I'm not even going to think about next year. I'm not going to lie to you. I don't care about next year right now. I'm going to enjoy this win."