Jim Gonder combed through 31 years of memories and could not remember a time when his Philipsburg-Osceola softball team had been held hitless.
He won’t have any trouble remembering this time, not after Riverside’s Kirsten Wilson threw a 15-strikeout no-no at his Lady Mounties, bouncing them from the PIAA playoffs with a 2-0 win in the PIAA Class AA semifinals on Tuesday.
Wilson, who is headed for Bloomfield College, totally dominated the P-O hitters, striking out every batter in the order at least once and allowing only one ball to reach the outfield.
There were two balls hit hard off her — Abby Showers’ line drive back to Wilson in the second inning and Haylee Hayward’s sharp grounder to short that was booted for an error in the fifth. Otherwise, Wilson methodically mowed down the Lady Mountie hitters. Of her 15 strikeouts, 11 were swinging.
Yet Wilson was unaware of what she had done as she applied ice packs to her throwing shoulder and her hip after the game.
“I had no idea (of a no-hitter) until you just told me,” she said.
Nor could she say how many no-hitters she’s authored in her career.
“I have no clue,” she added. “I don’t pay attention to it.”
According to her coach, Pam McCarty, that’s typical.
“Nothing rattles her,” she said. “Her demeanor is what makes her so good. She’s one of the best I’ve ever had. She is so smooth on the mound. If someone gets a hit or gets on base she just throws harder. She has three or four pitches but her fastball is her best pitch. Not many hitters can catch up to her fastball.”
P-O did what it could to prepare for Wilson’s speed, having ex-Lady Mountie Chelsea Rex, who just finished her sophomore season at St. Francis, throw batting practice.
“We hit her well,” Gonder said of Rex, who pitched P-O to a PIAA title in 2011. “But you can’t simulate the pressure of a playoff game against a pitcher like that. We worked on speed because we knew she threw hard .She was the story of the game. We couldn’t hit her riseball. She kept it in the zone where sometimes it’s a strike and sometimes it’s not. We tried to be disciplined and not chase it but we couldn’t get any base runners to put pressure on their defense and play some small ball.
“So my hat’s off to her. I don’t remember us ever being no-hit but we might have been. I’m not sure. But not in my first 15 years. No one threw that hard back then.”
Until two years ago, Wilson wasn’t throwing that hard either.
“She was a first baseman her first two years with us,” McCarty said. “And she was all-state as a sophomore. But she plays a lot of softball. She plays on a travel team and she has a softball in her hand 24-7, every month of the year. When you have someone that dedicated, good things are going to happen for them. She hasn’t had a bad game for us.”
Wilson is also talented with a bat in her hand. She had a pair of singles in her first two at-bats before Gonder elected to intentionally walk her in her last two at-bats, once to load the bases in the fifth inning with the clean-up hitter on deck. That didn’t work out well for P-O as Natalie Pritts lined a single to center for the only two runs of the game.
That was fine with Wilson.
“Hey, if they want to intentionally walk me, I’m fine with that,” said. “Let Natalie do the work. Go for it.”
But it was her work in the pitching circle that cast a huge shadow over this game and ended P-O’s season. Yet despite her dominance, Wilson saw room for improvement.
“I had a good game but I could have worked my drop-curve better,” she said. “I expected maybe a one- or two-hitter. I knew they were a good-hitting team. We didn’t know too much about them but I did scout them against Deer Lakes (in the quarterfinals) so I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do. I usually try to go for the strikeout but I have the utmost confidence in my defense. I know they’re behind me.”
The way Wilson was throwing against P-O, the biggest test for the defense was staying focused on the game. Only five balls were put in play by the Lady Mounties.
“She’s really good,” said P-O’s Kate Burge, Wilson’s counterpart. “She moved the ball around. It wasn’t just fastballs down the middle. You couldn’t guess against her, thinking ‘Well, she threw that pitch, maybe she’ll throw it again.’ Her ball moved well enough that we couldn’t get ahold of it.”