They should have been twins. That’s the only way Philipsburg-Osceola’s Haylee Hayward and Chelsey Henry could be any closer.
They form a lethal combination in the third and fourth spots in the P-O batting order and Thursday they did what they do best in the Lady Mounties’ 6-2 win over Ligonier Valley in the District 6 Class AA semifinals at the Curtis Park Softball Complex.
Hayward went 2 for 3 with a run scored and one driven in. Henry was 2 for 3 with a run scored, one driven in and a double, the only extra base hit in the game.
“Chelsey and I have been playing together since we were small,” said Hayward, who is the P-O career leader in home runs with 18. “We’re like two peas in a pod. We both have red hair. I definitely cherish the time playing on the same team with her.”
Hayward and Henry are the only seniors on the P-O squad and, as such, are tasked with providing leadership for the younger players.
“They are excellent leaders,” said P-O coach Jim Gonder. “They come up with clutch hits and clutch base running.”
“I guess it’s monkey see, monkey do,” Henry said of her relationship with Hayward. “I follow her around, she follows me. She’s my best friend and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Hayward scored P-O’s first run in the first inning when she singled to left, stole second and scored on Henry’s bloop single to right.
In the third Maggie Peck singled, stole second, took third on an error and scored on Hayward’s sacrifice fly to right.
The Lady Rams jolted P-O with a pair of runs in the fourth when the Lady Mountie defense sprung a leak.
Sara Klimchock opened the inning with a single and Karli Kuhn followed with a bunt single. One out later a dropped pop-up allowed Klimchock to score and Kailee Lear’s grounder to short was booted allowing the other run to score.
“That was our wake-up call,’’ said Henry. “It showed us we are not unbeatable. Every year we get a scare and that was our scare.”
The Lady Mounties responded immediately with a four-run rally in the fourth to take a commanding lead.
It all started when Henry led off the inning with a double to the right-center gap. Kam Harris, who not only got the win in the circle but also matched Hayward and Henry with two hits, singled to right to score Henry to break the tie. One out later Madison Lucas singled courtesy runner Annie Kos home and a pair of Ligonier Valley errors allowed Lucas and Kendra Cairns to score a pair of insurance runs.
“Well, sometimes when you throw a rock at a hornet’s nest the hornets come out,” said Ligonier Valley coach Mark Zimmerman. “We knew they were a strong hitting team, a good offensive team and we booted a couple of balls we shouldn’t have. When you start giving a team like that extra outs it comes back to bite you.
“I was happy with our effort. We knew we were coming here to play a good team and this is a tough place to play.”
The Lady Mounties rocked Lexie Petrof for nine hits as they secured their berth in in the District 6 AA title game against Bald Eagle Area Wednesday at Penn State’s Beard Field. BEA beat Central 8-5 on Thursday.
“Last year we left this field not feeling good,’’ Gonder said of a gut-wrenching 11-10 loss to Central in the semifinals. “That ate at me for 365 days. Since we’re taking two (to the PIAA playoffs) the semifinals are a big game for everyone now.”
“Before the season one of our goals was to win the Mountain League (they shared the title with BEA) and another was to make it to the District 6 finals,” Hayward said. “When we play these kinds of games, no matter who we play, we just try to put our best team on the field. Today I knew if we just put some runs on the board we’d be OK.”