Democracy made the difference for Philipsburg-Osceola in its clash against Bald Eagle Area on Tuesday.
With no outs and runners at first and second and his team trailing Bald Eagle Area 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Lady Mounties coach Jim Gonder wanted to bunt No. 6 hitter Aisha Goss to put the baserunners in scoring position.
His coaching staff had other ideas, since Goss had gone 2 for 2 in her previous plate appearances.
Gonder gave in and Goss made everyone in the P-O dugout look like a genius by smashing a towering three-run home run to lead the unbeaten Lady Mounties to a 3-2 victory against their Centre County and Mountain League rivals.
“I got outvoted,” chuckled Gonder. “It paid off.”
Kate Burge opened up the sixth by drawing a walk from BEA’s Megan Dudish and Abby Showers followed with a single to left.
That brought up Goss. As BEA had a conference on the mound, Gonder debated with his staff over what to do. He wanted to bunt the tying run into scoring position, having confidence the bottom third of the order could tie the game.
His staff had other ideas. “Those guys said, ‘She’s hot. Let her bat. Let her bat.’ That’s why I have a good coaching staff.”
Goss, who entered the game with six career home runs, nearly didn’t get the chance to be the hero. She fouled off one of Dudish’s early offerings that BEA third baseman Marissa Tobias had a bead on, but the ball hit the top of the fence in front of the P-O dugout.
After she fouled off a 1-2 pitch, Goss was called down to talk by Gonder.
“I told her to, ‘Clutch up. You’re a senior. Relax, it’s April 16th,’” Gonder said.
“I was very nervous and then I missed a sign, so I was like, ‘I’ve got to do something,” Goss said. “... I just wanted a base hit to get the runs around.”
She got everyone around, including herself. On a 2-2 pitch, Goss crushed a no-doubter, a majestic drive that easily cleared the left-center field fence.
“That was one of those moon-shot home runs,” Gonder said. “That was hit.”
“She’s a good hitter,” BEA coach Kayleen Sidisky said. “Good hitters are going to make you pay if you let it hang.”
Until Goss’ heroics, BEA (3-3) had the Lady Mounties (5-0) on the ropes. Hurting after fouling a ball off her left leg in her first at-bat, Dudish held P-O at bay for five innings behind excellent defense.
BEA handed P-O its first deficit of the season in the top of the third. Freshman Mikayla Smith smashed an opposite field triple to right and trotted home on Haley Geidroc’s two-out RBI single off Burge.
The Lady Eagles extended the margin an inning later. Freshman Logan Fischer had a one-out single, advanced second on a bunt. An error on Makennah Dyke’s grounder put runners at first and third. On the first pitch, Dyke broke for second and P-O threw back to pitcher Burge, who had Fischer caught off of third base. Burge’s throw to third was low and got past Haylee Hayward allowing Fischer to score.
Dudish was aided by a fine diving catch from Dyke and in right and a diving stop by shortstop Geidroc to save a run in the fourth.
The Lady Eagles kept that margin until Goss’ blast.
There was still some drama in the seventh. Smith led off with a single, but Burge slammed the door with a pair of strikeouts and a fly ball to end the game.
“I think we played very solid,” Sidisky said. “... I think we outhit them and outplayed them. They got one longball and we didn’t. That was the difference in the game.”
While it is only April, Gonder liked the way his team responded to facing its first deficit. His players agreed.
“We’re pretty tough,” Goss said. “We can get ourselves out of holes.”
Burge (5-0) allowed six hits, walked one and struck out seven. Dudish (3-2) allowed seven hits, walked one and fanned three.
The contest was well-played and held much of the drama that’s been a big part of the annual rivalry.
“It’s nice to beat them,” Goss said. “They’re a good team to play against and one of the better we’ve seen so far.”
“You can’t question how good P-O is,” Sidisky said of the three-time defending league champ. “If you want to win the district title, you’re going to have to beat them at some point. I’ll take a loss now and hopefully we’ll come through later in the season.”