High School Sports

High school softball: Philipsburg-Osceola’s Burge to cap stellar career at all-star game

Kate Burge doesn’t want to think about the things she accomplished as a Philipsburg-Osceola softball player.

A tough 2-0 loss against Riverside in the PIAA Class AA semifinals a little more than a week ago is still a little fresh.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to look back for a couple of months, maybe even until I start college softball,” Burge said. “It’s still a bittersweet thing that happened.”

But Burge, one of five Centre County participants in Thursday’s Pennsylvania Softball Coaches Association All-Star Game at Lock Haven University, knows that one of these days she’ll look back fondly on her career with the Lady Mounties.

And when she examines them, she’ll find numbers worthy of a future District 6 Hall of Famer.

In four years as a starter, Burge helped the Lady Mounties win four District 6 titles, a PIAA title, a PIAA runner-up finish and a PIAA semifinal berth. In 2 1/2 seasons as a starting pitcher, she amassed a 46-7 record, including a 20-1 mark this past spring. She was also a prolific hitter and scored the winning run in P-O’s 1-0 victory over Brandywine Heights in the 2011 PIAA title game.

“She was not only a pitcher, but a really good hitter, too,” P-O coach Jim Gonder said. “She was a big part of the team as a freshman and started four years.”

While Burge swung a solid bat — her long home run against Greensburg Central Catholic in 2011 was memorable — it’s her right arm that defined her P-O career.

Burge said she always wanted to be a pitcher from the time she started playing at age 8.

“When I was younger, my parents would always tell me that if this was what I wanted to do that I had to realize what I was committing to — that every single week I had to practice four or five times,” Burge said. “It wasn’t like I could just pick up my glove, spikes and bat and go out and play.

“It’s hard for an 8- or 10-year old to understand what that means, but I think I had a pretty good understanding of it. I would watch college girls and Mountie girls in high school and would see how good they were. I always knew I wanted to be the best I could be and I pushed myself. ... In my eyes, I wanted to be a part of every single play, so I worked my butt off to make that happen.”

Pushing herself meant workouts with pitching gurus Dave and Ali Stodart in the offseason. Over the years, she learned six pitches — fastball, curveball, riseball, drop, screwball and changeup.

She got her first chance to move into the circle as a sophomore when ace Chelsea Rex developed arm problems. Burge filled in and went 7-1 before Rex returned.

The short stint revealed much to Burge, who returned to third base to finish out the season.

“I didn’t understand what mental toughness was three years ago because all I did was hit,” she said. “I knew there was some of it, but I didn’t understand completely until I had to come in for Chelsea in my 10th grade year. I saw what every pitcher goes through and I knew I had to become mentally stronger if I ever wanted to see the mound in high school again.”

She became the team’s ace in 2012 and won 39 games over the next two seasons. Her 20 wins this season tied a school record and her 46 wins are fifth in school history

“You have to teach yourself how to be mentally tough,” she said. “You can’t really be taught, ‘Here’s how you need to become mentally tough.’ It’s just watching, going through situations that are stressful and that you have to be mentally tough for. It’s not just in high school. It’s summer ball and fall ball, too.”

Burge is looking to pitch in college. She’ll attend Penn State Altoona and hopes to join the growing contingent of Centre County players who have helped turn the program around under the leadership of former Bellefonte High School assistant coach Fred Caldwell.

“It’s like a Centre County All-Star team and I know almost every single one of them which makes it a lot easier for me,” Burge said. “I like to know who I play with. Already knowing them, that step’s checked off.”

Burge said there are no promises at making the squad, but that’s OK with her.

“I think I like it better him not telling me I have a spot because that makes me want to work extra hard to know that I made it there by myself,” she said. “... I like it that I have to go in and show them what I have.”

In the more immediate future, she’ll join Bellefonte’s Erica DeVinney and Jess McClenahan, Bald Eagle Area’s Megan Dudish and Penns Valley’s Madisyn Sharer on the District 6 roster for Thursday’s 5:30 p.m. clash against District 4.

Burge is excited to play with so many of the players that she has faced.

“Seeing all of the girls in it, it was amazing,” she said after Tuesday’s practice session. “It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I played against all of these girls.’ I’ve never really talked to them that much. Actually, I’ve never talked to a lot of them at all. Just knowing who they are and remembering what they’ve done when you played them, it’s awesome that we’re all coming together now.

“It’s like, ‘Aw, she hit a home run off of me, but she’s on my team now.’”

Burge admits that she misses high school already and the bond that she had with her Lady Mountie teammates. She hopes to work with animals and possibly to coach some day.

And down the road, she’ll remember a fantastic high school career.

“I haven’t really measured what I’ve done in high school,” Burge said. “Whenever I realize what I’ve done, it’s going to be like, ‘Holy crap!’ I’m reading some of the newspaper articles and I’m like, ‘Wow, I forgot about that.’”