Between the threatening skies overhead and the threatening bats in the other dugout on Thursday, Central Cambria softball coach Jamie Dixon knew trouble was looming for the Lady Red Devils.
And it didn’t take long to strike, as Philipsburg-Osceola jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and went on to an 11-1, five-inning romp in a District 6 Class AA first-round playoff game, that barely reached completion before the rain began to fall out of a sky the color of a bruise.
P-O’s Abby Showers laced the second pitch of the game for a double, Haley Frank singled her home, McKenzie Burge singled Frank home and Megan Bainey singled to score Burge to give P-O pitcher Chelsey Henry a 3-0 cushion.
“Ever since I was playing (at Central Cambria), Philipsburg has been the big team,” Dixon said. “The Mountain League is very different than the Laurel Highlands Conference. We knew we were going to see good competition. We didn’t hit like I thought we would and we played solid defense, but they just hit the ball. When I played them, we got murdered, like 20-0 in three innings.”
P-O expanded its lead in the third inning, when Hayward walked and Henry doubled her home, A hit batter, an error and a two-run single by Annie Kost pushed the lead to 7-0.
In the fourth, the Lady Mounties flirted with the 10-0 run rule on back-to-back doubles by Hayward and Henry (her second), and a single by Maggie Peck made it 9-0.
The Lady Red Devils got to Henry for a run in the fifth, on a walk and consecutive singles by Grace Grata and Chelsey Long, but P-O ended the game in the bottom of the inning on a singles by Tiffani Wagner and Showers and a double by Frank, which was her 100th career hit.
Showers, who played third base instead of shortstop, led the Lady Mounties with three hits while Frank, Henry and Wagner had two hits apiece in P-O’s 14-hit attack.
“To get 100 hits in softball is a big deal,” P-O coach Jim Gonder said of Frank’s achievement. “You have to average 25 hits a year, and that’s doing something. And she didn’t play much as a freshman.”
Gonder was especially pleased with the performance of his defense, which was reshuffled after breaking down in losses to Bald Eagle Area and Bellefonte earlier in the week.
“We were bleeding there for awhile,” he said. “We didn’t play good ball the last couple of games. It was nice to have Abby back in the lineup. That makes better chemistry for us. They say defense wins championships and the way we played the last couple of games we weren’t going to win any championships. But we made some nice plays today.”
Henry kept Central Cambria under control until the fifth and finished with a three-hitter, walking two and striking out two.
“She did a nice job,” Gonder said. “She got ahead in the count more frequently and that’s going to be a key for her down the road. Getting up by three or four runs is a big deal too. Those early runs allow a pitcher to relax.”
Gonder didn’t relax until the final out, however, as the skies grew darker.
“I was glad when we got five innings in,” he said. “I was a pretty happy guy. Our prom is tomorrow (tonight) and I didn’t want to have to come back and finish this game on Saturday.”
P-O will entertain Mount Union, a 12-8 winner over Central Thursday, in a quarterfinal game at 4 p.m. on Monday in Philipsburg.