PHILIPSBURG — If Thursday’s first-round game of the District 6 Class AA softball playoffs is any indication, then Philipsburg-Osceola could be playing into June.
After throwing consecutive no-hitters in the first two rounds a year ago, Lady Mountie senior Kate Burge was back at it again when P-O tangled with Bishop McCort.
Burge retired the first 19 batters she faced before the Lady Crushers got their first baserunner, as she led the Lady Mounties to an 8-0 win in Philipsburg.
“I was just going out like I was the whole game, so it didn’t affect my mind that much,” said Burge of taking the perfect game into the seventh. “I had to go at them hard all seven innings.
“It just happens. I don’t try to have a no-hitter because if I try too hard, then my stuff won’t work as good. I think knowing that I prepared all season helps (get me ready). Mentally, I feel really good because I’m a senior, and I know I have to be a leader on the team. I know if I’m not hitting good, then I’m on the mound for my team.”
After Jenna Gaunt grounded out to first to open the seventh, teammate Emily Daley worked the count full against Burge, whose only blemish was a free pass to Bishop McCort’s third baseman.
The walk didn’t faze Burge, who recorded the final two outs on just three pitches.
Burge, who struck out nine, had consecutive no-hitters in the first two rounds a season ago, as she worked 11 innings, struck out 17 and walked just one.
“She pitched a great game,” P-O head coach Jim Gonder said. “She was ahead in the count a lot, and I thought she was in command of the game. Defensively, we made the plays … so, overall, I felt we played well.
“I think she gets up (for the playoffs) and I hope she gets on a roll because we play well behind her.”
While Burge was mowing through the Lady Crushers’ lineup, the Lady Mounties were struggling to get their offense in gear against Ricki Conrad.
Conrad silenced the P-O bats through the first two innings before the top-seeded Lady Mounties (18-1) broke through with four in the third.
McKenzie Burge had the big hit in the frame, as she laced the first pitch she saw into center field for a two-run single. Kate Burge opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly, while McKenzie Burge later scored on one of Conrad’s two wild pitches.
“I thought (Conrad) threw well,” said Gonder. “She was a good first-round pitcher for us. She changed pace, she changed speeds and she threw kinda hard.
“(McKenzie’s hit) kick-started us a little bit, and I think the kids got relaxed. When Kate is pitching with a 3-0 lead, they can relax a little bit and it’s a big bonus when that happens.”
P-O added another tally an inning later on an RBI double from Haley Frank, who was the lone Lady Mountie with two hits in the contest.
After P-O plated three in the sixth and had two runners in scoring position, Conrad made sure the contest went the distance when she got Aisha Goss to ground out to short to get out of the jam.
Conrad scattered seven hits, walked three and struck out one.
“We had a good season and we lost a lot of close games just because of poor play in the field,” said Bishop McCort head coach Jason Whorl, whose team finished at 6-11. “Today we didn’t see that, but our bats weren’t there.
“There are some good pitchers in the Laurel Highlands, but (Burge) could hit any spot at will, it seemed, and that’s really important when you’re a pitcher. They were solid defensively, too. They’re a nice team.”
The Lady Mounties return to action on Monday when they host Mount Union, which downed Marion Center 4-3.
Regardless of who she’s facing, Burge vows that she’ll be ready.
“We’re going to go hard against whoever we play,” she said. “We have to hit good, I have to pitch good and my defense has to play good behind me.”