A potent top of the lineup and solid pitching will lead to a lot of victories.
It led to yet another win for the Philipsburg-Osceola softball team on Thursday afternoon.
The top four in the Lady Mounties’ lineup accounted for eight hits and nine runs, reaching base 12 times, to back up Chelsey Henry’s one-hitter in an 11-0 triumph over Penns Valley.
Haylee Hayward was 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs, and Abby Showers tripled and singled while knocking in five runs in a game halted after five innings.
Showers twice stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and converted each time, first by clearing the bases with a triple in the first inning, sending a sinking liner to left field that skipped past Abbigail Thom, then hitting a hard grounder through the left side of the infield to plate two more runners in the third.
“When you get that early lead, it kind of relaxes the rest of the team,” coach Jim Gonder said. “It makes things a little easier.”
Batting cleanup, Showers also was the recipient of the success in front of her in the lineup.
Haley Frank singled twice and walked once in the leadoff spot, scoring each time. No. 2 batter Hayward doubled twice, singled once and also scored every time she reached base. No. 3 hitter Kenzie Burge made it on base in all four of her plate appearances with a single, two walks and an error, scoring three times.
“When we get more runs, it makes us more relaxed, more calm,” Showers said. “It makes us more likely to do better things than when we’re just tied.”
Maggie Peck also had a pair of hits and two RBIs as all but one starter had at least one hit.
In the circle, Henry was sharp, retiring the first eight batters in order before the Rams finally reached base with an error and walk in the third. Courtney Ironside came through with the team’s lone hit, belting a clean single up the middle with one out in the fourth.
“It was a nice game,” Gonder said. “She was around the plate all day.”
Henry struck out six, had just the one walk and hit a batter, never let a runner get past second base and got plenty of support from the defense behind her.
“I felt pretty good,” Henry said. “I knew I had a great defense behind me. That made me feel even better.”
Ironside’s hit and Mikenna Lyons reaching on the error accounted for the only balls to leave the infield.
“Chelsey’s job is to pitch the ball and it’s our job to field it,” Showers said. “When it’s a good day for her, it’s going to be a good day for us.”
Harley Hess struck out four and walked six while allowing 11 hits in the loss.
Penns Valley catcher Nikki Harbaugh showed some grit, taking a pitch off her right hand in a fourth-inning ground out, then returning to her catching position in the next inning with two fingers on her throwing hand taped together.
“She’s a tough gal,” Lucas said. “Most kids wouldn’t have gone back in. That’s the kind of things you need. You need kids that are strong leaders.”
While the Lady Mounties (7-0) and Lady Rams (0-5) have been going in opposite directions so far this spring, Penns Valley is starting five freshmen while P-O is loaded with six juniors and seniors in its talented lineup.
“We always preach to the kids to get better every day,” Gonder said. “We’re going to be playing better ball as the year goes on. Right now, that was a good step in the right direction.”
The teams play a rematch Monday in Philipsburg.
“We’re a work in progress and we make a lot of young mistakes,” Lucas said. “We’re a little tentative at the plate too. You add all those things up and it equals what the results are. We tell them you have to keep coming out and keep getting better. At the end of the year we’ll be a lot better than we are now.”