High School Sports

High school softball: Philipsburg-Osceola to meet unbeaten Beaver in PIAA Class AA quarterfinal showdown

CDT photo

No, it wasn’t pretty.

And no, it wasn’t close to the brand of softball that Philipsburg-Osceola has been known for in the PIAA Tournament over many seasons.

But as the Lady Mounties walked off the diamond Monday afternoon, the result had a familiar ring. They had dispatched another PIAA Class AA foe, routing previously unbeaten Moniteau 19-6 in five innings.

“What we take out of it is our team can score some runs and we have to tighten our defense,” coach Jim Gonder said of the win in which the Lady Mounties committed five errors.

Gonder, whose team (20-5) faces Beaver (17-0) at 4 p.m. Thursday at Saint Francis University, said the Lady Mounties showed improvement in just one practice.

“We made some strides going in the right direction,” he said. “Obviously, I believe we’re a better team than that defensively. … We’ve always pushed, ‘Get better every day.’ You’ll see it on our T-shirts and stuff. When you go out there at practice and you learn something new, it makes it better.”

“That’s a big thing Mr. Gonder pushes — there’s always room for improvement,” catcher Haley Frank said. “Even if the win wasn’t as great as it possibly could be, it was still a win. We can definitely work on plenty of things defensively.”

Frank, who has switched positions at points during the season, believes that juggling has made it more difficult, especially with a young team. With a shoulder injury to shortstop Abby Showers during the regular season, Gonder had to shuffle his infield.

“I think because we’ve had to move the girls around a lot, it’s definitely a learning experience,” Frank said. “We’ve definitely had to do a lot of rotations. We all definitely have the skill and ability. It’s just the fact of putting it all together.”

Showers had been playing third base since her recent return the lineup, but moved back to shortstop during the Moniteau game. Gonder anticipates she will start at shortstop on Thursday.

Many teams struggled with defense throughout opening round games. Strong hitters, with a lack of dominant strikeout pitchers, could explain some of the fielding woes.

“You are going to see more balls hit harder and it puts more pressure on the defense,” Gonder said. “That’s why you’re seeing more defensive mistakes.”

While the Mounties are working on defense, their bats have been a constant. The Lady Mounties are averaging more than 10 runs per game in the postseason. Only Bald Eagle Area (5-4 in the District 6 final) has held P-O to less than eight runs in the postseason.

“Even if we all aren’t doing the greatest or up to our full potential, all of us are going out and trying our hardest,” Frank said of the offense. “ … Towards the end of the season, everyone is picking up someone else.”

The Lady Mounties threw together a historic rally Monday, sending 18 batters to the plate and scoring 16 runs in the fourth inning as they overcame a 6-3 deficit.

“I couldn’t even remember how many at-bats I had in that one inning,” said Frank, who had two hits in the frame. “I thought that was a pretty cool thing to experience. That doesn’t even happen in JO’s.”

“We saw the bottom of our lineup being aggressive and taking good swings at the ball,” said Gonder, whose team had 10 hits against Moniteau. “I hope that continues.”

The Lady Mountie batters will get tested by Beaver’s Casey Farkasovsky. The sophomore has won all 17 games for the Lady Bobcats, including a 6-0 blanking of District 5 champion Everett on Monday. Farkasovsky, who has allowed just one run in the postseason, tossed a three-hitter and struck out seven against Everett.

Tayven Rousseau drove in four of the six runs for Beaver, which was the biggest offensive game of the postseason. The Lady Bobcats are averaging just three runs over three WPIAL playoff games and the PIAA opener.

“Beaver looks like they’re pretty solid,” said Gonder, who always has a solid scouting report on the Lady Mounties’ postseason foes. “They’ve got good pitching. The other teams aren’t scoring a lot of runs off of her. They rely on their pitcher a lot and they play a short game to score runs when they need to.”

Gonder could turn to two pitchers to get the Lady Bobcats out. Chelsey Henry and Maggie Peck both have pitched in the team’s last two games.

“I’d expect Chelsey Henry to start the game, but I’d also expect to see Maggie Peck if it needs to be,” the veteran coach said. “Or maybe we’ll start Maggie and bring Chelsey in relief. I’m not used to doing things this way, but I’m getting more and more used to it.”

The Lady Mounties, who advanced to the PIAA semifinals last season, will be looking to pin the first loss on their second consecutive foe.

“It can be intimidating, but we all want to go in with confidence and not wanting to get down on ourselves,” Frank said of playing an undefeated team. “We want to go in knowing that we’re going to do well and do the best that we can.

“A lot of us have been in this position,” Frank added. “We all know that we have to just go out, try our hardest and do the best that we can do. At the end of the game win or lose, if we know we did our best we can’t get down on ourselves.”

The winner will face the winner between Bald Eagle Area and Wilmington in the Western Finals on Monday.