Philipsburg-Osceola coach Jim Gonder was leery of his five-time defending District 6 champion team possibly facing Central in the quarterfinals of the Class AA playoffs.
The Lady Mounties didn’t get the team they split with during the regular season — they’ll get the team that bounced the Lady Dragons.
Second-seeded Philipsburg-Osceola (17-4) will host 10th-seeded Mount Union (14-7) in Monday’s quarterfinals. Fourth-seeded Bald Eagle Area (16-4) also is in action against fifth-seeded Bellwood-Antis (18-2-1). Both games are at 4 p.m.
The Lady Mounties had lost two straight entering Thursday’s opening round game against Central Cambria, but they were back in postseason form in a 11-1 rout of the Lady Red Devils in five innings.
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P-O coach Jim Gonder, who juggled his lineup as shortstop Abby Showers battled arm troubles, juggled it again in the opening round win. Showers, who missed three games in the regular season, played third base against Central Cambria. After committing 10 errors in their final two regular-season games, the Lady Mounties had just one in the playoff opener,
“We were bleeding there for awhile,” Gonder said after Thursday’s triumph. “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.”
Gonder also juggled his batting order, moving Showers to the leadoff spot. The junior responded with three hits and No. 2 Haley Frank, who moved past the 100-hit mark for her career, had two hits. Every starter had at least one hit and the top eight scored at least one run.
Kenzie Burge still leads the Lady Mounties with a .563 average. Frank sports a .534 average. Haylee Hayward, who moved into the cleanup spot on Thursday, is hitting .432 with a team-high 16 extra-base hits.
It’s a bet that Mount Union coach Matt Fiscus isn’t happy to see the Lady Mounties. The two teams have met in three of the last four District 6 tournaments with P-O winning 5-1 last season, 6-1 in 2012 and 4-1 in 2010.
Mount Union surprised seventh-seeded Central in the opening round. Kaitlyn Querry led off the game with a home run and Kristin Miles added a second-inning blast for the Lady Trojans, who roughed up the Lady Dragons for 11 hits. Querry was a perfect 3 for 3, scored three times and drove in a pair of runs. Brittany Brumbaugh and Lauren Shugarts added two hits and two RBIs each. Marissa Aurand went the distance, allowing nine hits.
Chelsey Henry (8-1) will start in the circle for the Lady Mounties. She allowed five hits, walked two and struck out two against Central Cambria.
“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.”
Bellwood-Antis at Bald Eagle Area
The Mountain League champion Lady Eagles are looking for their first PIAA berth since 2009 and face a formidbale opponent.
The Lady Blue Devils have not lost in more than a month, with their last defeat being a 3-2 decision against Claysburg-Kimmel on April 17. They’ve won nine and have a tie since and given up more than one run just once in that 10-game span.
Bellwood features one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in District 6 in leadoff hitter Emily Nagle. The speedy center fielder is hitting an astonishing .611 and has not been held hitless in any game this season. Nagle has eight doubles, three triples, six home runs and has scored a whopping 44 runs. She is 19 of 21 in stolen bases and she gets on base two out of every three plate appearances.
Jim Payne’s team has more pop through the lineup. Catcher Jacqueline Finn is hitting .465 with 20 RBIs and shortstop Laycee Clark has a .403 average with 20 RBIs. As a team, the Lady Blue Devils are hitting .372.
“They have gaudy statistics up-and-down the lineup,” BEA coach Curt Heverly said. “They also seem to be very young with one senior.”
Payne has options in the circle. Freshman Maddie Miller tossed a four-hitter as Bellwood thumped Ligonier Valley, last season’s District 6 runner-up, 10-0 in five innings in the opening round. Miller is 9-0 on the season with a 1.47 ERA. Sophomore Taylor Schildt is 9-2 with a 1.36 ERA.
The Lady Blue Devils advanced to the district semifinals last season before falling 5-2 to P-O.
The Lady Eagles have been winning with solid pitching, good defense and timely hitting. The Lady Eagles had six hits against Penns Valley in their playoff opener, but all six drove in at least one run in a 10-3 triumph over the Lady Rams, who led 3-0 after the first inning.
“I think they were a little disappointed in the start they had,” said Heverly of Thursday’s game. “They didn’t like giving up those three runs. We’ve had a pretty good weekend. I think we’re solid. ... I really believe that we’ve got to play our best game.”
Heverly also has a young squad, with just two seniors. But one of those seniors is pitcher Makennah Dyke, who he says has been integral in the team’s success. Dyke tossed a seven-hitter on Thursday.
“When you have a team as young as mine, I wouldn’t have wanted to go through that this year with a young pitcher,” Heverly said. “Having Makennah there who’s an old senior that is used to some of that stuff is what we needed. Her steadying influence on the mound has kept our heads above water in a lot of games. That made us win games that people didn’t think we’d win and all of a sudden we got feeling good about ourselves and now some of those rookies are not rookies anymore so now we’ve got a pretty solid outfit.”
Follow Walt Moody on Twitter @wmoodycdt