High School Sports

PIAA softball: Philipsburg-Osceola faces Riverside for spot in finals

It will take one more successful trip through the WPIAL for the Philipsburg-Osceola softball team to have a chance to play for a PIAA Class AA title.

That final leg looks to be the most difficult part of the journey.

The Lady Mounties (23-1), who have beaten a pair of District 7 teams in the first two rounds, will face WPIAL champion Riverside (21-0) at 4 p.m. Monday at Brockway High School.

Riverside, led by pitcher Kirsten Wilson, has cruised through the opening two rounds of the PIAAs. Wilson pitched a perfect game in a 6-0 win over Curwensville in the opening round and had a one-hitter in Friday’s 13-0 romp in five innings over District 6 runner-up Ligonier Valley.

“We know District 7 has a lot of good teams,” said P-O first baseman McKenzie Burge. “Riverside is really good. They’re (unbeaten) and their pitcher is really good.”

The game that made the Lady Mounties take notice of Riverside was the rout of Ligonier Valley, a team that P-O edged 8-7 in the District 6 final. In Friday’s quarterfinal win, Wilson gave up just one hit, a 25-foot dribbler, as the Lady Panthers took advantage of error-prone Ligonier Valley.

“I would have liked to have seen the game and what happened,” Burge said. “Ligonier Valley was amazing against us.”

“I was a little surprised,” P-O coach Jim Gonder said. “I saw there were quite a few errors in the game. I didn’t see the game. I listened on the radio. I was surprised. I knew they would score runs, but I thought Ligonier would score some runs, too. Obviously, that pitcher must have a lot of stuff.”

The 5-foot-10 Wilson, who is headed to Bloomfield College, has struck out more than 200 batters for the second consecutive season. She has 18 shutouts this year.

Only three teams have scored against Riverside this season and only one (Mohawk) has scored more than one run. In six postseason games, Riverside has outscored its opponents 44-1.

Wilson is also the Lady Panthers’ top hitter, sporting a .571 average. She smacked two homers in the opening-round win over Curwensville. Natalie Pritts, who carries a .421 average, had three hits against Ligonier Valley.

While the Lady Panthers have cruised behind Wilson, P-O has knocked off a couple of teams that Riverside defeated on the way to winning the WPIAL crown. P-O topped third-place finisher Chartiers-Houston (which fell 4-0 to Riverside) 4-1 in the opening round and knocked off runner-up Deer Lakes (a 5-1 loser to Riverside) 3-1 in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Kate Burge improved to 20-0 on the season with a four-hitter and was backed by errorless defense. Burge is one of four seniors looking to make it back to the PIAA title game. She, Carly Gonder, Aisha Goss and McKayla Myers were all part of the 2011 championships squad.

“It means so much, knowing that we went farther than we did last year,” said Kate Burge. “Four of us, it’s our senior year. We’re just doing everything we can to get to that final game.”

“Us four seniors, we’ve been playing all together since second grade,” added Goss. “It would be a huge thing to be in the state championship game.”

Jim Gonder was on hand to see the WPIAL title game and knows his team faces a tough task.

“We have to play a good game,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have a chance to go out there and play them.”

Abby Showers continues to lead the Philipsburg-Osceola offense with a .547 average. The Lady Mounties are hitting .368 as a team, with 75 extra base hits, including 20 homers.

Kate Burge said the key Monday is to remain aggressive.

“We just have to go at a team hard,” the right-hander said. “ It doesn’t matter what our scout says. We have to go at the team as hard as we can.”