After playing from behind all game, erasing two deficits in what could have been the final inning of the season and squandering two opportunities to win it, the Philipsburg-Osceola baseball team just needed a hit to come out on top.
The bases were loaded for Isaac Knepp with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Knepp looked to put the ball in play on a day when the seventh-seeded Mounties struck out 15 times and sent a ground ball between first and second for a single to lift his team to a 4-3 win over No. 10 seed Chestnut Ridge in the first round of the District 6 Class AA playoffs Thursday.
“I don’t think I breathed that entire last at-bat,” Knepp said.
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He was greeted first by teammate Micah Martin near first base, and the rest of the Mounties swarmed them to celebrate the victory.
Philipsburg-Osceola advances to the quarterfinals Monday to take on the winner of the first-round matchup between No. 2 Richland and No. 15 Tyrone. Richland and Tyrone’s game was postponed to Friday at 2 p.m. due to field conditions.
The Mounties stayed alive thanks to stellar pitching and clutch hitting.
P-O starting pitcher Josh “Snoop” Earnest went nine innings, allowing three runs and four hits while striking out eight and walking three. Knepp pitched one scoreless inning of relief to earn the win.
Earnest and Logan Williamson each delivered with doubles to score the game-tying runs in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively.
But before the Mounties finally broke through against Chestnut Ridge relief pitcher Matt Monko, they couldn’t get on the board against starting pitcher Phillip Dull.
Dull struck out 11 and scattered four hits in six scoreless innings.
The right-hander dominated the P-O lineup with the combination of his fastball, curveball and knuckleball. He finished his outing with a pair of strikeouts, getting Trey Shaw looking at a fastball on the outside corner and blowing a fastball by Caleb Belinda to end the sixth.
“He had us off balance for most of the game until he came out,” Earnest said. “He was probably one of the better pitchers we saw this year.”
Earnest matched Dull’s brilliance on the mound.
The P-O right-hander allowed just three baserunners in the first seven innings.
Chestnut Ridge’s John Deaner was the first to get to Earnest with a leadoff double in the third inning. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on an error on a pickoff attempt by catcher Derek Shaw.
But he bounced back with two strikeouts in a scoreless fourth and recorded two more strikeouts in a perfect fifth.
After getting John Kohler looking on a pitch on the outside corner to end the fifth, Earnest turned and waved to the rowdy visitors dugout.
“They pointed at me so I pointed back at ‘em and kind of said ‘watch this,’” Earnest said.
Earnest attributed the moment to the adrenaline he felt throughout the game.
And he kept his team within one run going into the seventh inning.
“Snoop was just pitching a phenomenal game and it was a shame that we were losing 1-0,” P-O coach Doug Sankey said.
Chestnut Ridge then replaced Dull with Monko in the eighth, and P-O capitalized.
Earnest tied the game with one out in the bottom of the seventh with an RBI double to left-center field. With one out and runners on first and third later in the inning, Martin popped out on a bunt attempt.
“We wanted Micah to bunt for a hit there,” Sankey said. “He’s one of the fastest kids we have on the team, and he’s bunted a lot this year and he’s always bunted for a hit. The first pitch, we always bunt for a hit, all of our guys.”
A groundout sent the game to extra innings.
Chestnut Ridge regained control in the eighth on Brodie Harbaugh’s two-run single through the left side of the infield.
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth, P-O was down to its final strike with Belinda on first and Brandon Kephart on third.
Williamson drilled a 3-2 pitch into left field for a double.
Sankey waved Belinda around third as Chestnut Ridge started to make the throw to the cutoff man. The ensuing throw sailed high, allowing Belinda to score easily to tie the game.
“We weren’t messing around,” Sankey said. “Caleb runs like a deer.”
The Mounties then left the game-winning run, and after a scoreless ninth inning, Belinda singled with one out to give his team a chance in the 10th.
After a flyout, Williamson reached on an error and Earnest was intentionally walked to bring Knepp to the plate.
He put the ball in play for a walk-off single to win the game.