Harris is a force on the circle and the batter’s box for PO
The list of outstanding pitchers for the Philipsburg-Osceola softball team is a long and storied one.
It began with Erica Bradley in 1989 and has continued in an unbroken chain running through Sue Lamb, Kiley Hazelton, Jamie Potter and Amanda Smith — all flame throwers — and includes Brittany Murphy, who relied more on finesse and breaking balls, to Chelsea Rex and Kate Burge.
Now along comes Kam Harris, the latest link in the chain, who mixes fastballs and curves and who, like Murphy and Rex, has won a PIAA championship game.
So what’s the secret to all of this success? Something in the mountain air, something in the drinking water, or is it the mojo that has been passed down from pitcher to pitcher like some secret handshake?
According to P-O coach Jim Gonder, who has coached all of the great ones, it’s the same thing that makes real estate valuable.
“Location is why they succeeded. They all had great control,’’ he said of the pitchers past. “They’ve been able to hit their spots. You don’t have to throw it by someone if you have good location on your pitches. They rarely walked anyone.’’
So far this season, Harris has walked four batters and only 43 in 262.2 innings dating back to her sophomore year. In that stretch she has won 39 games and lost two, both to cross-county rival Bald Eagle Area.
Clearly she fits neatly into the long blue line of P-O standouts. In addition to their ability to hits their spots, all of the outstanding P-O pitchers also had another common denominator — work ethic.
“They’ve all been willing to work hard,’’ Gonder added. “They practice longer, they don’t get time off. They have to hit and throw. If they’re not willing to do all of that, they’re not going to be a good pitcher. They have to work at it at least nine months out of the year, and anymore it’s more like 12 months.’’
Harris said Sue (Lamb) Mandel, who won 51 games from 1992-94, coached her in youth softball and more recently she has been mentored by Rex who was an outstanding hitter as well as an ace in the pitching circle.
“I’d like to say I pattern myself after Chelsea,’’ the soft-spoken Harris said. “She’s been my role model. I try to have the same mentality and approach as she did. She taught me to be confident, to take one pitch at a time and make your next pitch your best pitch. She’s the one (of the past P-O pitchers) I’ve followed the most. ‘’
Harris has the same cool demeanor as Rex, even when she’s in the circle with the state championship on the line as she was last June against Holy Redeemer. “I wasn’t really nervous for that game,’’ she said. “It was more about adrenaline. In big games I seem to perform better.”
Harris has helped herself with the bat during her career. Coming into this season she already owned the team home run record with 23. So far this year, she had added four to that total. And she didn’t hesitate when asked what she prefers, hitting or pitching.
“I would take hitting,’’ she said. ‘I would pick that over doing anything else in softball any day. When you hit the ball and you know you made good contact that’s probably the best feeling. Every time I go to bat I want to get a base hit or do something to help my teammates, like advancing the runner. The home run record doesn’t really mean anything. I just go up there with the idea of making good contact and if it goes it goes.’’
Gonder identified Harris’ ability early on.
“She’s always been a good hitter,’’ he said. “And she’s worked at getting better. I can remember seeing her in the (batting ) cages at the Y(MCA). And I watched her throw and she threw pretty hard and was hitting her spots.’’
Harris saw some action in the circle as a freshman and then took over the job the following year, making her something of a rarity at P-O as a four-year pitcher. And Gonder said her progression has been easy to notice.
“From her ninth grade year to this year she has grown a lot, physically,” P-O’s coach said. “Since ninth grade she has done the things she knew would make her better. This year she is more athletic. And her speed has gone from the low 50s to the upper 50s, and that rarely happens. She has done all she has needed to do to make herself successful. There is no question she has put in the quality time.’’
Harris said she plans to attend the Pennsylvania College of Technology with an eye toward becoming a physician assistant.. She also plans to play softball there. But first there is some unfinished business for her and the Lady Mounties, who are the defending PIAA champions in Class 3A.
“This is a new year and a new team’’ she said. “Winning that was last year; this is now. Obviously, we have a target on our back.’’
So far no one has been able to hit it. Harris has seen to that.