Philipsburg-Osceola softball season ends in PIAA quarterfinals

Even a nine-run lead wasn’t safe for the Philipsburg-Osceola softball team Thursday afternoon.

Despite building a huge early margin, the Lady Mounties saw the season come to an end at the hands of South Park 16-12 in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals at Somerset High School.

“It (stinks) that you don’t move forward,” said Hayward, one of the team’s two seniors. “Like I told the girls, I’m not disappointed at all.”

The Eagles (16-4) pounded out 19 hits and took advantage of five errors by the Lady Mounties (22-3), who scored eight runs in the top of the first inning and led 11-2 in the third.

“That was like a football score there,” P-O coach Jim Gonder said. “I was waiting for the field goal to be kicked.”

It was quite the turn of events after the Lady Mounties had rallied from 5-3 down in the seventh inning in Monday’s first round.

South Park’s defense also was less than stellar, making eight errors.

Maggie Peck was 4 for 6 to lead the 10-hit attack for P-O, which was bidding to make the PIAA semifinals for the second time in three seasons. Jayde Burge added a 2 for 4 day, including a two-run double in the first inning. Hannah Thompson reached base five times on a single, a walk and getting hit by a pitch three times.

Peck also took the loss in relief of starter Kam Harris.

South Park, which will face Moniteau in Monday’s semifinals, saw five batters all collect three hits each, including a 3 for 5 day with a three-run home run for Katlyn Pavlick. Winning pitcher Justine Dean, Angela Shine, Kaitlyn Morrison and Katie Isenberg were part of that three-hit group, with Morrison and Isenberg scoring four runs each.

The first inning was wild, with 13 Lady Mounties stepping to the plate. Chelsey Henry started the scoring with an RBI single before the Eagles made four errors, Jayde Burge had a two-run double, Peck added an RBI single and Kylie Thal had a two-run single.

“You feel like you’re on top of the world in the top of the first when you get eight runs,” Hayward said.

You feel like you’re on top of the world in the top of the first when you get eight runs.

Haylee Hayward, P-O senior

“That’s what you want in a game like this — you want an early jump,” said Henry, the team’s other senior. “Unfortunately they came back. I told them to shut the door, and unfortunately we couldn’t do it today.”

The Eagles responded when Morrison doubled and scored on Isenberg’s triple, with Isenberg touching the plate after a Shine single.

“It was huge,” coach Larry Mercurio said of South Park’s ability to score in the bottom of the first. “We had to score there in order to stay in it.”

The Lady Mounties got three more in the third when Harris’ two-out fly ball to deep center with the bases loaded was dropped to bring in all three runners.

To that point, only one of the Mounties’ 11 runs was earned, and it was difficult not to relax.

“It’s hard not to go into that coast mode,” Hayward said. “Like, ‘All right, we’ve got this.’ As of last game, we all should know you can’t sit on a two-run lead in the bottom of the seventh. A few of us just kind of were like — I even caught myself, ‘All right, good, this is exactly what we needed.’ ”

South Park chipped away with a three-run third as Morrison doubled, scored on an error, then saw a Dean RBI double and Shine RBI single.

In the fourth, Pavlick crushed a three-run homer to left to chase Harris.

“I just knew I needed it and it worked,” Pavlick said. “Right in the moment — felt awesome.”

Three more hits and an error followed in the inning to slice the lead to 11-10.

“The fourth inning tends to be the bad inning for us,” Henry laughed. “Wow, today it was bad. There was nothing we could do. There’s no pointing fingers in this game. It was just back-to-back domino shots.”

South Park got the lead in the fifth, combining two more Lady Mountie errors with RBI singles for Isenberg, Dean and Shinavski.

“We haven’t really been down at all this season, but we are very good offensively,” Pavlick said. “We knew we could produce the runs and get on base. That’s all we needed.”

P-O got a run back in the sixth on a sacrifice fly from Hayward, but the Eagles added two more insurance runs to close the scoring.

The Lady Mounties loaded the bases with two out in the seventh but a ground out ended the season. Still, Hayward could not complain about the way their season and her career ended.

“We worked our butts off every single day,” said Hayward, who is headed to Slippery Rock. “We became, really, defined (by) what teamwork really is. It’s been one heck of a ride.”

Gordon Brunskill: 814-231-4608, @gordoncdt