Before Philipsburg-Osceola’s game Wednesday, Lady Mounties coach Jim Gonder talked to center fielder Megan Bainey about taking the next step as a hitter.
To do that, Gonder said, she needed to start driving the ball to the opposite field. Bainey’s usually a “dead pull hitter,” but she’s been working hard to stay inside the ball with her coach and on her own.
She finally saw results against Central Mountain with her team facing a one-run deficit in the bottom of the fifth inning. With two outs and the bases loaded, Bainey lifted a bases-clearing double into right-center field to spark Philipsburg-Osceola to a 4-2 win over the Wildcats in a showdown between previously undefeated teams. The Lady Mounties (10-0) and Wildcats (8-1) both had to manufacture runs in the low-scoring affair, in which Bainey’s double was the lone extra base hit.
Philipsburg-Osceola starter Chelsey Henry pitched a complete game, battling through cold weather to limit Central Mountain to two runs on six hits for the win.
“I told the girls after the game basically, good defense, good pitching and a timely hit,” Gonder said. “That’s the recipe for a good win.”
Gonder said he expected a hard-fought game dominated by pitching.
That was clear as both teams played for one run at a time.
Central Mountain used that approach to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning. Mariah Major led off with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Avery Shaffer. Moriah Lindsey then singled up the middle, past diving Philipsburg-Osceola second baseman Maggie Peck, to score Major.
The Lady Mounties answered with a near-identical sequence to even the score in the bottom of the third.
Henry started the inning with an infield single, and Haley Frank followed with a sacrifice bunt. With Henry on second, Haylee Hayward grounded out to the pitcher before McKenzie Burge knocked an RBI single up the middle.
After three innings, both teams had managed just three hits in a defensive battle.
“We knew that we had to play our best ‘D’ to win this game,” Bainey. “They’re a great team all around.”
The Wildcats quickly regained the lead in the fourth inning on pitcher Rachael Shady’s sacrifice fly to center field. But the Lady Mounties limited the damage, gunning down Karli Coleman at third base to end the inning.
Philipsburg-Osceola still trailed Central Mountain 2-1 going into the bottom of the fifth.
Henry led off with a walk. Frank then attempted another sacrifice bunt, but lifted the ball in the air, over the charging Shady’s head for an infield single. The stroke of luck drew a smile from Frank on first base and a shake of the head from Gonder on the third base line.
“That’s actually a play we work on,” Gonder joked before adding with a laugh, “we were lucky. We got lucky. Sometimes you got to get lucky, too.”
With first and second and no outs, Hayward laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third. Burge then drew a walk to load the bases for cleanup hitter Abby Showers.
Showers hit a ground ball to Central Mountain third baseman Bree Hilty, who got the force out at home to preserve the Wildcats’ lead. That brought Bainey to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded.
Bainey tried to relax and ripped a line drive to the right-center field fence for a double. Three runs scored. Philipsburg-Osceola led 4-2.
Gonder saw Bainey take a step toward becoming a complete hitter Wednesday. In addition to her game-winning double, she also hit a hard ground ball to second base in the fourth inning. Henry saw the Lady Mounties finally seize control against the Wildcats.
“It was amazing,” Henry said. “It was great to have the pressure lifted off me as a pitcher. To come back in and say, ‘Hey, we’re back on top, let’s get this done.’”
Henry retired Central Mountain in order in the sixth, and the Lady Mounties clinched the win with a double play by Showers in the seventh.
Philipsburg-Osceola remains undefeated, a strong start for the team’s postseason goals.
“Our mantra is always just get better and hopefully we get into mid-May when we’re playing our best ball,” Gonder said/ “If that happens, we like our chances.”