High School Sports

Philipsburg-Osceola hopes Madison Lucas’ hot bat leads team to state title game

Philipsburg-Osceola’s Madison Lucas gets a hit during the win over Deer Lakes in the PIAA 3A quarterfinals at Mount Aloysius on Thursday, June 8, 2017.
Philipsburg-Osceola’s Madison Lucas gets a hit during the win over Deer Lakes in the PIAA 3A quarterfinals at Mount Aloysius on Thursday, June 8, 2017. adrey@centredaily.com

Madison Lucas was rather displeased with her performance during last Monday’s PIAA first-round game for the Philipsburg-Osceola softball team.

The sophomore was 0 for 2 with a walk in the game, a 1-0 victory over Pequea Valley. Both outs for her were strikeouts — doubling her season total.

So Lucas did what any good hitter does after an off day at the plate: She got back to work with extra batting practice.

“I hit until I got my swing back,” she said Thursday afternoon, when she was 4 for 4 with a pair of doubles in a quarterfinal victory over Deer Lakes.

“An animal,” pitcher Kam Harris chimed in when told of her teammate’s numbers.

Said Lucas: “I found my groove.”

Lucas has been having a stunning season by any measure, and it has played a huge role in the Lady Mounties’ march to the PIAA Class 3A semifinals. P-O (20-3) returns to the field at noon Monday at Mount Aloysius College against South Park (18-3), with the winner advancing to the state championship game Friday at Penn State.

She may be young, but Lucas takes her hitting very seriously.

Even in the offseason, she figures she takes swings at least three days a week — and just about every day during the high school or summer travel seasons with the Central PA Outlaws out of Harrisburg. Even on days without practices, she will head to the field to take cuts, and if she doesn’t do well, she will go back for more.

She also has a hitting tee and net at home to work on fundamentals, and even a pitching machine in the basement, which she has had since the sixth grade.

“I spend a lot of time there,” said Lucas, who hopes to turn the hard work into a spot on a college team.

Coach Jim Gonder isn’t surprised at how serious she takes her craft.

“I know how hard she works,” Gonder said. “She puts the extra time in, which is what it takes. If you want to be good, you have to put the additional time in on top of practice.”

With that kind of dedication, it’s no wonder that outing last Monday grated on her. It was tough for the whole team, with the game starting about 45 minutes late, then delayed better than two hours because of a thunderstorm, resulting in a contest that ended a few minutes past midnight.

Lucas thought about those two strikeouts during the delay as she and her teammates tried to stay mentally ready to resume the game.

“That gave me time to think about what I did wrong,” she said. “You have to be focused. That was nice for team bonding and just for everyone to bring each other up”

Lucas’ season has been impressive. Thanks to that 4-for-4 day, she is hitting .565 with eight home runs and 14 total extra-base hits. She has just the four strikeouts in 80 plate appearances.

“She’s a strong kid,” Gonder said. “Squares the ball up well. She keeps her weight back. She’s worked on her hitting a lot. She’s had a great year for us.”

And she’s hoping to keep that year going with at least one more strong performance on Monday. With her form and work ethic, Lucas’ hot bat could once again prove to be a difference-maker.

Gordon Brunskill: 814-231-4608, @GordonCDT

PIAA Class 3A softball semifinal

Who: Philipsburg-Osceola (20-3) vs. South Park (18-3)

When: noon, Monday

Where: Mount Aloysius College, Cresson

What’s next: The winner moves on to the state championship game against the winner between Pine Grove-Mid Valley at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Penn State’s Nittany Lion Softball Park

Radio: WBLF 970 AM, 106.3 FM, WPHB 1260

South Park’s bats

Philipsburg-Osceola may boast a memorable season at the plate with a .359 team batting average, but South Park isn’t too bad with a bat either.

The Eagles are hitting .419 this season and have clubbed 25 homers, including a trio of three-run home runs in an 11-0 victory over Ellwood City on Thursday in their quarterfinal. The team is led by three key players in junior Katlyn Pavlick, a Pitt commit who is hitting .606 with 10 home runs and 43 RBIs; sophomore Kaitlyn Morrison, who is committed to Penn State and is batting .472 with four homers and 20 RBIs; and senior Justine Dean, who’s headed to Mercyhurst-North East and is batting .485 with four homers and 34 RBIs.

“They have good hitters, obviously,” P-O coach Jim Gonder said. “I’d have to say if you were in Las Vegas, they’d have the odds in their favor. We’re a little bit of an underdog, and I’m OK with that.”

However, it’s not because of those numbers that P-O pitcher Kam Harris groaned after Thursday’s game when told they would be facing South Park. She had some unpleasant memories from last season when the teams met in the state quarterfinals. P-O scored eight runs in the top of the first inning and was up 11-2 in the third, but lost 16-12.

Needless to say, Gonder addressed that game in practice Friday, with the obvious reminder not to take any lead for granted in a game that figures to be a slugfest.

“We know they’re a very good hitting team,” Gonder said. “We’ve got to be on top of our game and hopefully control their offense. It’s going to be tough.”