Through the first three innings, Bald Eagle Area’s Megan Dudish went through the Philipsburg-Osceola softball team’s lineup like a hot rumor.
Before the Lady Mounties batted in the fourth, coach Jim Gonder gathered his team outside the dugout for a little chat.
“Maybe I scared them a little,” he chuckled after P-O had posted a 4-0 win on the overcast Monday afternoon.
Put the Fear of Gonder in them is what he did.
Because on the first pitch of the fourth inning, Carly Gonder lifted a fly ball to deep left field that had just enough energy to clear the fence by the narrowest of margins. McKenzie Burge followed with a line drive to right field that eluded a diving Makenna Dyke and rolled into the corner as Burge took third for a triple. Katie Burge then drove her in with a sacrifice fly to left to give herself a 2-0 cushion.
“That was a big hit for Carly,” Jim Gonder said. “She had been struggling and that might be a spark for her. That got us going.”
“I wasn’t sure it was over,” Carly Gonder said of her homer. “I was still running hard to second. Coach told us her first pitch was up and out, that we were letting her pitch her pitch. So I was looking for a first-pitch fastball and it worked out for me.”
In the eyes of BEA coach Kayleen Sidisky, it worked against the Lady Eagles in a big way.
“I think I called the wrong pitch on that home run,” she said. “But I thought our left fielder was going to catch it and it just kept going. The life seemed to go out of us when she hit that. The way we came out I thought we were going to shut them down. But then they got that home run and we were like, ‘Oh no, it’s P-O, they’re winning, they’re going to win.’ I was disappointed with the way we responded. I don’t know if we reacted in shock or what. It just totally deflated us.
“It seemed like when the P-O batters swung they were either going to hit the ball real hard or miss it a lot. And we didn’t swing the bat the way we need to. We played right into their game plan.”
Dudish finished the day with an 11-strikeout, four-hit effort. Katie Burge, on the other hand, pitched to contact, allowing only two hits and relying on her defense to do the grunt work, which it did to perfection. After allowing a first-inning single to Marissa Tobias, Burge retired 15 straight hitters before allowing a single to Allison Simpson with two outs in the seventh.
“I felt like all of my pitches were working,” she said. “Sometimes it’s not all about strikeouts. You just let your defense do the work.”
“Our infield defense played really well,” Jim Gonder said, singling out shortstop Abby Showers, third baseman Haylee Hayward and second baseman McKayala Myers for several difficult plays. “Kate got ahead in the count a lot and they hit a lot of ground balls. That is her strength.”
The Lady Mounties went to the short game to add a pair of insurance runs against Dudish in the sixth. The BEA defense also contributed to the scoring.
Hayley Frank led off with a fly to right that was misplayed for a two-base error. Carly Gonder laid down a sacrifice bunt attempt and BEA went for the runner at third, but the throw was dropped, leaving runners at second and third with none out. McKenzie Burge’s grounder to first scored Frank and Showers laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to get Carly Gonder home with the fourth and final run.
“Those bonus runs put a lot more pressure on them,” Jim Gonder noted.
And Kate Burge kept the BEA bats quiet in the rematch of this battle of rivals.
“I know we have a good hitting team and I thought if we got up there and totally focused on what we needed to do we could have tied it up,” Sidisky said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t and she (Burge) did what she needed to do. Kudos to them.”
Jim Gonder had plenty of kudos for Dudish and the way she pitched against his team.
“She pitched a great game,” he said. “That’s as well as we’ve been handled in a couple of years. We’re not big but we do have some powerful hitters. She pitched a great, great game.”