Going into the season, Philipsburg-Osceola coach Doug Sankey debated how to fill out the top of his lineup card.
He considered batting Logan Williamson leadoff, second or third. He decided he wanted Derek Shaw and Williamson to bat second and third, respectively.
That left the No. 1 spot open.
“If we could find a leadoff hitter, that’s what we were looking for,” Sankey said.
The Mounties have found their leadoff hitter early in the season.
Josh Earnest continued to excel in his new role to help Philipsburg-Osceola cruise to a 7-0 win over Penns Valley on Wednesday. Earnest finished 4 for 4 with a double and a triple and scored three runs. The sophomore sparked a 13-hit day in support of winning pitcher Isaac Knepp.
Knepp threw a complete game, striking out five and walking none while limiting the Rams (1-3) to three hits.
The top of the lineup staked P-O (4-0) to an early lead.
Earnest, a sophomore, was at the bottom of the Mounties’ lineup last season. Sankey put Earnest in the leadoff spot this season and wanted to see how he would handle it.
He’s embraced the role.
“Last year he was really aggressive,” Sankey said of Earnest, who is now hitting .625. “He’s still aggressive this year, but batting leadoff, he’s working some more counts. But boy, he’s been hot.”
Earnest was patient in his first at-bat.
He took two outside pitches for balls before drilling a line drive into left field for a double.
“After the first at-bat, I really got pretty comfortable with the pitching,” said Earnest, who is known by his nickname, “Snoop.”
Penns Valley starting pitcher Chase Collison never got comfortable.
Earnest advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Williamson’s one-out single. Williamson stole second before Knepp singled through the left side of the infield.
Williamson rounded third and took off to score after an error in the outfield, making it 2-0 Mounties. Gage Coudriet’s RBI single capped the scoring in the first inning.
P-O added to the lead in the second after back-to-back singles by Trey Shaw and Earnest, followed by an RBI double by Derek Shaw.
That was the end of Collison’s day.
The left-hander allowed four runs and seven hits in 1 1/3 innings.
“Chase was having trouble fooling ’em on everything because I talked to him between innings and he said they were just hitting everything they threw,” Penns Valley coach Jon Bowersox said. “Plus, I don’t think he had his best stuff. He didn’t have a lot of velocity on his fastball.”
Derek Shaw and Williamson both finished 2 for 4 with two RBIs to lead the Mounties offense along with Earnest.
Caleb Belinda hit a solo home run to left-center field to make it 5-0 in the third inning.
“He’s been tearing it up,” Sankey said.
The Rams couldn’t get anything going offensively.
Penns Valley managed just three hits as the team struggled to hit the pitch on the outside corner.
“It looks like we’re going to have to work on that more because they got to learn to take it the other way,” Bowersox said. “And they try to pull that pitch all the time, and as you saw today we kept hitting dribblers on the left side of the infield.”
Earnest and his teammates made solid contact throughout the game.
In his third at-bat, Earnest ripped a line drive back up the middle for a single, leading to calls of “Snoop” from the home dugout.
He finished his day at the plate with a shot to the left-center field fence for a triple in the sixth inning.
And he scored the game’s final run on a single by Derek Shaw.