High School Sports

High school softball: Frank was force for Philipsburg-Osceola

Philipsburg-Osceola's Haley Frank will play for District 6 in the annual Pennsylvania Softball Coaches Association All-Star Game on Thursday at Nittany Lion Softball Park.
Philipsburg-Osceola's Haley Frank will play for District 6 in the annual Pennsylvania Softball Coaches Association All-Star Game on Thursday at Nittany Lion Softball Park. CDT photo

Haley Frank couldn’t stop the tears.

In a District 6 playoff romp against Central Cambria, the Philipsburg-Osceola catcher cruised into second base with a double.

It was then she found out from coach Jim Gonder the significance of the moment — she had become just the 13th play in the storied program’s history to reach 100 career hits.

“It was such a great feeling,” said Frank, who will be the Lady Mounties’ lone representative in Thursday’s annual Pennsylvania Softball Coaches Association All-Star Game, which pits the District 6 All-Stars against District 4 at 7 p.m.. “While I was on second base, Mr. Gonder told me it was my 100th hit. I started to cry.”

Gonder could understand.

“It was pretty emotional for her because she basically did it in three years,” he said. “Four years is tough, but three years is really tough.”

The hits would keep coming for Frank. She’d finish the season with 48 of them, tying Mackenzie Wilson’s school record of 48 in a season. Only a highlight reel catch by Bald Eagle Area right fielder Logan Fischer in the PIAA semifinals stood between Frank and owning the record on her own.

Still, it was a fantastic season for the senior and three-year starter.

At the plate, she batted .528 and was the second-leading hitter on the team.

“I worked a lot more during preseason this year at the batting cages with my dad (Steve),” Frank explained. “Because it was my senior year, I worked a lot harder than I have the past years.”

“Obviously, she hit from the beginning of the season to the end,” Gonder said

But as much as she worked on her batting stroke, Frank toiled even harder at her new position — catcher.

After playing third base as a sophomore and right field as a junior, Frank moved behind the plate.

“It was really different,” Frank said. “Just from looking back to how I started the year, I definitely improved a lot because I’ve never done it before.”

Gonder said Frank did a remarkable job.

“She played three different positions in three different years for us,” he said. “That doesn’t happen very often and she excelled at all three positions. Wherever we needed her to play, she played and she just didn’t fill in — she excelled. You can’t ask more of a kid than that.”

Frank credits her father, who coaches both her and her sister Camryn in the summer and also serves as an assistant coach on Gonder’s staff, for her being able to jump in wherever she’s needed.

“In (Junior Olympic)’s and junior high, my dad makes sure we can play anywhere,” she said. “If there is any opportunity — even if I were beat out of a position — I would be able to start at another position.

“I’ve played since second grade and my sister has played since kindergarten and he has been our coach ever since. He definitely has had a huge impact on my softball career. He definitely pushes me a lot — a lot — and I thank him every day for it.”

Frank picked up the catching duties so well it caused Gonder to change his plans for the position.

“Our intention from the beginning of the year was to have her and Haylee Hayward alternate at catching because Haylee has caught before,” Gonder said. “Going into the postseason, we thought Haylee Hayward would be the catcher and Haley Frank would be our infielder. As it worked out, we were better defensively the other way around.”

Frank helped the Lady Mounties advance to the PIAA semifinals before falling to BEA. She had a 4-for-4 day at the plate in a 9-6 quarterfinal win over District 7 champion Beaver and had two hits in a 16-run inning against Moniteau.

“This year was one of the funnest and my best year by far,” Frank said.

“You don’t replace kids like that,” said Gonder of Frank. “Hopefully next year you can get two kids with 24 hits, which is pretty good.”

Frank just doesn’t play softball. She was a member of the school’s golf team and also part of it’s competition cheerleading squad. She said the latter gets a bum rap for the amount of physicality that’s required to excel.

“A lot of people say it isn’t hard,” she said of cheerleading. “Honestly, it is really hard when you’re lifting girls that are the same size as you and tumbling.”

Frank will attend Lock Haven University in the fall and plans to major in early childhood education on the way to becoming a teacher for children in kindergarten through fouth grade.

“I love being around kids,” she said. “I’ve babysat for years. A lot of people tell me I would be really good at it and I would really enjoy it.”

She’s honest about why the younger children or more attractive.

‘I don’t think I would want to do high school or junior high because I know how I was and my friends were,” she says with a chuckle. “I don’t know if I’d be able to handle it. I love younger kids and being around younger kids.”

Frank doesn’t know if she’ll try to play softball at Lock Haven, but is considering tryong out for the team.

“It’s all about my education more,” she said. “It’s how I will do in school dealing with a sport. Hopefully, I’ll try it.”

She’s continuing to play this summer for her father’s team and will likely play ball in the fall.

“I love playing softball,” Frank said. “This is my 11th year of softball. It’s been practically my entire life.”

And she has some great memories. She’s been a part of three teams that have reached the PIAA semifinals and has a gold medal from the 2011 squad that won the PIAA title.

“Being a part of the state championship team was such a great experience,” said Frank. “I can’t even explain how great it was. Even though I didn’t start, it was still a great feeling to be a part of that. To play with those girls, especially to like Mackenzie Wilson and Chelsea Rex, it was amazing.”

Like Wilson and Rex, she’s a District 6 All-Star and will be playing with many of the girls she has been trying to beat all of these seasons.

“I know a lot of them from summer ball, sometimes playing with them or against them,” Frank said of her District 6 teammates. “I think it should be a lot of fun. I’m pretty excited for it.”

The opportunity to play in the contest is not lost on Frank, who has watched several for P-O greats play in the contest.

“It’s nice to be recognized for everything that I’ve done this year and in my whole career,” Frank said. “Playing in this game is definitely a big honor and achievement. It’s an honor to be a part of it.”

Follow Walt Moody on Twitter @wmoodycdt