High School Sports

P-O softball advances to district championship after home run-powered rout


Penn Cambria softball coach Jake Casale knew what awaited his team when it visited Philipsburg-Osceola for Thursday’s District 6 Class 3A semifinal game — a power-hitting group that boasted a short fence.

“I didn’t know if my girls could match them,” he acknowledged.

They couldn’t. The Lady Mounties finished with three homers, two from Maggie Peck, and rolled over the Lady Panthers 10-0 in six innings to advance to Wednesday’s title game at Nittany Lion Softball Park against the Central-Ligonier Valley winner.

“For four innings we were able to compete with them,” Casale said. “But I’ve watched them. They’re tough. I’ve followed them — and it’s home run, home run, home run. There are a lot of tough outs in that lineup. Those home runs are deflating.”

Peck, who now has 11 home runs this season, hit the first homer, a two-out solo shot to left in the third inning. Hannah Thompson followed with a double, and Madison Lucas drove her home with the second homer of the inning, another blast to left off starter Casey Reese. It was the eighth homer of the season for Lucas.

P-O led 3-0 after that third frame — and the game was never in doubt afterward.

“We feed off each other,” Peck said of the home run outburst. “I might have sparked that, but Maddie kept it rolling. That third inning was when we got going. That’s when we picked up momentum and started to roll.”

In the fifth, Peck smacked her second homer of the day to dead center, driving in Kylie Adams, who had singled ahead of her.

At that point a light rain began to fall and it appeared to have an effect on Reese, who lost her control in the sixth when she issued four walks, hit a batter and gave up a single in the game-ending rally. Kylie Thal drew a bases-loaded walk to force in the 10th run.

Peck finished the game in relief of Kam Harris in the sixth.

“We actually have our pitchers practice in these conditions,” P-O coach Jim Gonder said. “And of our three pitchers, Maggie is the best in these conditions. I don’t know why. She was saying, ‘It’s raining coach, I want the ball.’”

Gonder was unsure of what the team’s season record for home runs was, but he was certain this year’s group had surpassed it.

“It was somewhere in the low 20s, and Maggie and Madison have 19 between them,” he said. “I don’t know where it (power) is coming from. I certainly didn’t expect it. We lost the two seniors (Haley Heyward, Chelsey Henry) who hit most of our home runs last year. And it’s not just Maggie, it’s all throughout the lineup.

“It’s caused us to change our coaching style a little bit. We don’t bunt as much, and we steal less. Why take a chance on getting someone thrown out when you have someone coming up who can hit a home run? You’d be foolish if you didn’t change your style. If you don’t adapt to your personnel, you’re not very smart.”

Thursday marked the final home game for P-O’s three seniors. So, even with all the home runs, it was still bittersweet — even for the girl who twice went the distance.

“This is the last game I’ll ever play here,” Peck said, tears welling up in her eyes. “I couldn’t ask for a better game.’’