The inning that seemed foremost in Jim Gonder’s mind wasn’t the same one almost everyone else who watched his Philipsburg-Osceola softball team dismantle District 9 champion Moniteau 19-6 in five innings Monday was talking about.
What occupied Gonder’s thoughts was a horrific first inning which saw his team commit five errors and fall behind 3-0 in a first-round PIAA Class AA playoff game.
“That was not a good inning,” he understated. “And it wasn’t jitters, I don’t think. We just didn’t play well and I know we can play better than that.”
After getting the first two batters out, Chelsey Henry hit Kennedy DeMatteis, Kristina DeMatteis singled and then the wheels came off as P-O committed three errors on one play, booted another ball and wound up down 3-0.
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But the Lady Mounties weren’t fazed as they rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning without the benefit of a hit as DeMatteis hit a pair of batters, walked another and saw two runs score on an error.
“After that (first) inning when we had the errors we knew we needed to step it up,” said Abby Showers, who started the game at third base but later traded places with Haylee Hayward, going back to her normal shortstop position. “We knew we were better than that.”
And they soon set about proving it.
A double by Kenzie Burge, a walk and Henry’s fielder’s choice allowed P-O to get two runs back in the bottom of the first, and Henry’s fielder’s choice scored Burge to tie it up in the third only to have the Lady Warriors bounce right back . They took take the lead in the bottom of the inning thanks to back-to-back doubles by Sara Hull and Taylor Hayschak and a single by Kristina DeMatteis.
Then came the inning that will be long remembered by the P-O fans and live in infamy among the Moniteau faithful.
Take a minute to digest these numbers: In the top of the fourth inning P-O sent 19 batters to the plate, scored 16 runs, had only seven hits, drew five walks, had a hit batter and Moniteau committed five errors.
Showers kick-started the uprising with a three-run homer, a line shot over the fence in left field that chased home Megan Bainey and Tiffani Wagner, who had drawn walks to open the inning.
“She needed that,” Gonder said of Showers’ homer. “This has been a pretty tough year for her. Things have not gone her way. If she’s getting a hot bat that’s a big thing for us.”
Showers wasn’t sure she had a homer until she approached second base.
“I was running, going for the double, and their second baseman told me it was over the fence,’’ Showers said, holding the home run ball. “When we were down 6-3, my teammates did a good job getting on ahead of me and I figured it was time for me to step up, be a leader.’’
Haylee Frank followed with a single, Burge’s ground ball was booted, Hayward got aboard on an error and Henry rapped a two-run single. In her next at-bat in the inning she crunched a two-run double and finished the game with six RBIs. Frank also had two hits in the inning as the game got completely out of hand. Moniteau coach Dan Beebe pulled DeMatteis and replaced her with Taylor Hayschuk to try to stop the bleeding.
“We tried to ride our ace as long as we could,” he said. “But they are a really good hitting team. That home run really lifted them. And once you go through the batting order three or four times they started figuring our pitcher out.
“But our hat’s off to them. That’s a great team. They’ve been there, done that.”
“She started out up in the strike zone and we made her come down,” Gonder said, explaining his team‘s success against DeMatteis. “When she did that it made her more hittable.
Henry and Frank each had two hits for the Lady Mounties. Henry threw a four-hitter over three innings before giving way to Maggie Peck for the final two.
“I gave up six runs so I knew I had to get those back,” said Henry of her six-RBI game. “Then, when Abby hit that three-run homer, I knew that was when it was going to happen.”
Henry also offered a compliment to DeMatteis for the way she weathered the storm of in the marathon fourth inning.
“I thought their pitcher kept her composure very well,” she said. “If that had been me I probably would have had a meltdown.”
“When we were down 6-3, I looked around and the morale seemed a little down,” Gonder said. “But then everyone gutted it up. We were fortunate today, especially with that outburst.”
The two teams combined to commit 12 errors in the game, which will haunt any coach. But Gonder wasn’t worried about style points, only that his team moves on in the PIAA playoffs. The Lady Mounties will meet Beaver, a 6-0 winner over Everett, in Thursday’s semifinals.
“I’ll take ugly wins the rest of the way.”