High School Sports

Harris pitches gem to lead Philipsburg-Osceola past Bald Eagle Area in District 6 softball championship game

Philipsburg-Osceola celebrates their 4-0 win over Bald Eagle Area in the District 6 AA title game at Beard Field on Wednesday, June 1, 2016.
Philipsburg-Osceola celebrates their 4-0 win over Bald Eagle Area in the District 6 AA title game at Beard Field on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. adrey@centredaily.com

A complete game, two-hitter to go along with a fate-sealing, two-run double?

As a freshman?

Yeah, Kam Harris will take it.

Harris has had a surreal season so far as one of the youngest members of Philipsburg-Osceola’s softball team.

But she was confident, with good reason.

“It was definitely intense,” Harris said, “but I knew that with our team behind me, nothing would stand in our way.”

And on Wednesday, she celebrated with her squad.

The Lady Mounties’ freshman phenom shined bright under the lights of Penn State’s Beard Field, guiding P-O to a 4-0 win over Centre County rival Bald Eagle Area in the District 6 Class AA championship game.

P-O (20-2) and BEA (15-5) will both be in the PIAA tournament, which begins Monday.

But in a rematch of 2014’s title game, P-O wanted to best BEA. A couple of years ago, the Lady Mounties fell to the Lady Eagles in extra innings.

This one didn’t take nearly as long.

Harris cruised from the get-go, retiring the first 14 batters she faced. Through 4 2/3 frames, the freshman was working a perfect game.

Harris said that while she has pitched in a lot of high-pressure games in her career, this was by far the biggest.

Even still, P-O coach Jim Gonder had no problem giving her the ball.

“She was rolling today,” Gonder said. “I talked to my pitching coach, and he counted three pitches that she missed her spot on. That’s pretty amazing.”

In total, Harris struck out six in seven innings of work, and of the 21 batters she retired, 13 of them were out in four pitches or less.

BEA coach Don Lucas took notice.

“She had us out on our front foot a lot,” he said. “She was hitting her spots well, getting ahead in the count, and making us hit her pitch. And we just didn’t really do a good job of that.”

The Lady Eagles didn’t draw any walks, either, so baserunners were at a premium.

For a while, it was the same way for the Lady Mounties, too.

BEA freshman starter Zoey Surovec did well in the circle. Through four innings she only allowed one hit — an RBI single by P-O senior Chelsey Henry in the bottom of the first.

P-O, a team that entered Wednesday averaging 8.5 runs per game in their last six contests, eked out a second score when No. 9 hitter Hannah Thompson lined one into left-center, plating Madison Lucas in the fifth.

Still, it was only 2-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth. If the Lady Eagles could hold it there, they’d have a feasible shot to come back in the top of the seventh.

But then Harris stepped to the plate.

After Kylie Thal singled to open the inning and Henry was hit by a pitch, the freshman pitcher helped her own cause, hammering a two-run double to the centerfield warning track.

It was a backbreaker for BEA.

“You’re down one or two runs, that’s one thing,” Lucas said. “But if you get down four, that’s a tough mountain to climb.”

Harris went on to finish out the top of the seventh 1-2-3, setting the P-O crowd — roughly half of the 1,000-plus patrons — into a frenzy.

The Lady Mounties ran into each other’s arms in elation, and later held the district trophy high.

Gonder, wearing a championship medal around his neck, reflected a bit postgame, talking about how his seniors, Henry and Haylee Hayward, carried this team, and how the younger players stepped up like they were veterans.

With the celebration still on, Gonder was asked how he’d get his team focused for the state tournament.

“That’s pretty easy,” he said. “You win Monday, you get to play on Thursday.”

As for Lucas, he thinks BEA’s season is far from over.

“We’ll be back,” he said. “... Everybody knows the Mountain League is one of the toughest leagues in the state. If you battle through the Mountain League and get to this point, you usually do pretty well.

“I look forward to meeting (P-O) again.”

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9