High School Sports

Kam Harris in command as Philipsburg-Osceola wins PIAA playoff opener over Pequea Valley

Philipsburg-Osceola catcher Kylie Thal throws the ball to first base for the out during a game against Pequea Valley on Monday, June 5, 2017, at Nittany Lion Softball Park.
Philipsburg-Osceola catcher Kylie Thal throws the ball to first base for the out during a game against Pequea Valley on Monday, June 5, 2017, at Nittany Lion Softball Park. psheehan@centredaily.com

It was midnight madness at the Nittany Lion Softball Park on Monday.

Even with a delay of better than two hours, and a game ending nine minutes after midnight, the Philipsburg-Osceola softball team did just fine.

The Lady Mounties finally prevailed 1-0 over Pequea Valley behind the stellar pitching of Kam Harris in a PIAA first round playoff game that lasted 3 hours, 54 minutes.

“It’s tough because it’s a little late and we’re all a little tired,” Harris said. “The best thing we could do is just keep ourselves upbeat.”

The Lady Mounties (18-3) will head to the state quarterfinals Thursday to meet either Deer Lakes or Karns City. Those teams had their contest postponed and will meet Tuesday.

Annie Kost, Kylie Adams and Kylie Thal each doubled for P-O.

Harris was in control in the pitcher’s circle, retiring the final 21 Braves batters in a row. She had eight strikeouts while allowing one hit, no walks and one hit batter.

“I felt pretty good,” Harris said. “Knowing that you have your teammates behind your back, that’s another great feeling. I felt like I was on top of my game today.”

The sophomore also had no idea she sat down 21 batters in a row.

“I did not know that,” she said. “Some good information. I went out there and gave it my all.”

Coach Jim Gonder had his other two pitchers, Kylie Adams and Maggie Peck, ready just in case, but wanted to see if Harris would still be effective after the delay.

The game was moving at a brisk pace before a thunderstorm — expected much earlier in the day — swept in after the end of the fourth inning. Lightning was sighted first to chase everyone from the field, but it took better than 40 minutes before the first drops hit the field and brought on a 2-hour, 10-minute delay.

“We were doing a good job of staying active,” Peck said. “We were playing some games in the batting cage. We were trying to keep moving and keep our muscles going. We were ready for anything.”

Pequea Valley standout pitcher Sabrina Ryan, who entered the game with better than 1,000 career strikeouts, added to her total with nine while allowing six hits, two walks and two hit batters.

“She’s a good pitcher, and we kind of knew we were going to have to work for the runs that we got,” Kost said. “We got a run, so we’re happy with that.”

The lone P-O run got on the board in the third inning. Kost clubbed the first pitch of the inning off the top of the fence right at the left field foul pole — inches from a home run — for a double. “I didn’t even think that I hit it that far,” Kost said. “I got jammed on it and I didn’t think that it went that far. I was kind of surprised.”

With one out Peck put down a bunt to move Kost to third, but the throw hit Peck in the back just as she reached first base, with the ball rolling far enough away for Kost to scamper home.

“I don’t bunt a whole lot so I was like, ‘OK, I got the bunt sign, we’ll see what happens,’” Peck said. “It did make the difference, but I wasn’t sure how the rest of the game would go on, but at least we had that one run.”

The Lady Mounties then managed to load the bases with two out in the inning but could not cash in, as Ryan struck out P-O’s top hitter in Maggie Lucas, who had a .556 batting average and just two strikeouts all season entering the game.

Leaving runners on was a recurring theme for the Lady Mounties, who also had the bases loaded in the fifth and runners at second and third in the sixth and ended with nothing in both frames.

“We left too many people on base today,” Gonder said. “We had opportunities to score runs, and we need to score runs whether it’s putting down a successful bunt or whether it’s running the bases a little bit better. We made some mistakes that fortunately didn’t cost us today.”

The Braves had a chance early, with the first two batters of the game reaching on a hit batter and a short infield single, but Harris struck out Ryan, then got a ground out and pop-up.

After that, she was in full command, with only one ball leaving the infield on a fourth-inning fly out to center field.

“I didn’t know what to expect (after the delay),” Gonder said. “That’s not something you can practice for, obviously, or prepare for.”

Gordon Brunskill: 814-231-4608, @GordonCDT