After a dominating performance on Tuesday in the first game of the Centre County Baseball League championship series, Philipsburg was feeling confident.
The story was a little different Thursday, even if the Pirates defeated Howard 4-1 behind Parker Watson’s two-hitter.
Philipsburg had defeated Howard 13-1 Tuesday and showed no sign of slowing, but before Thursday’s game the team was delivered some bad news. A roster error led to a Howard protest. After deliberating, league president Rob Gavlock decided to take away the Pirates’ victory, giving Howard the 1-0 series lead.
“I heard about it literally about two minutes before I was about to walk out on the mound,” Watson said. “Everyone was (ticked), but then one of the older guys on our team (AJ Robinson) came in and just said, ‘Listen we have to put it behind us, we’ll be fine.”
The blow could have taken over and decide the rest of the series, but Philipsburg remained steady. The team worked together to get its first official series victory over Howard, and it all started in the first inning with Drew Bryan’s single.
On the next pitch, Bryan went to steal second base. While trying to catch him out in the act, Howard catcher Scott Zuback sent his throw into center field, allowing Bryan to race all the way home.
An error also led to the Hawks’ run in the bottom of the first.
While trying to turn a double play, the Pirates had an overthrow at third base, allowing Gage Gardner to even the score 1-1.
Jake Belinda started the Pirates off in the second inning with a double to centerfield. The Hawks, excited over their sudden lead of the series, refused to give Philipsburg anything. They appealed to the umpires again, successfully, with a ruling the Pirates’ third-base coach touched Belinda as he rounded the bag. A double play followed to end the inning, and plenty of trash talk between the teams and fans followed.
Watson responded by striking out the side in the bottom of the inning.
“It really fuels your fire, their talking crap the whole game. It just motivates you more.” Watson said of the comments.
Watson pitched a complete game, struck out seven and gave up just two walks.
“I was just throwing strikes, and I was glad the defense played well,” he said.” We got early runs and it’s definitely easier to pitch when we have runs.”
In the third inning, Matt McCamley’s double brought in Matt Curtis to give Philispburg-Osceola a 2-1 lead. The Hawks’ response was to bring in pitcher Tyler Sunday in relief of starter Tyler Womer, but AJ Robinson’s sacrifice fly brought in Bryan for his second run of the game. McCamley then scored after a Belinda single.
Heading to the final inning, the Hawks knew they needed some hot bats to come away with a win, just as the Pirates knew they needed solid defense.
Dan Cole started the inning with a fly ball to centerfield where it was picked off by McCamley. Clay Smith found himself out as well after shortstop Drew Bryan scooped up a grounder. Watson then struck out Zach Rote for the final out.
With the victory secured, Watson and the Pirates are ready for the next game.
“We need to play just how we did today,” Watson said. “I just want to come back and win the next two, and I think it’d be kind of fun to win the championship on their home field. But, we have to win Game 3first.”
Philipsburg will host Howard at 3 p.m. Sunday for Game 3 of the best-of-five series.