High School Sports

‘Bash Sisters’ together one more time on diamond

Philipsburg-Osceola’s Haylee Hayward plays her final high school softball game Wednesday night at Penn State’s Beard Field in the PSBCA Hall of Fame Games.
Philipsburg-Osceola’s Haylee Hayward plays her final high school softball game Wednesday night at Penn State’s Beard Field in the PSBCA Hall of Fame Games. adrey@centredaily.com

They earned the nickname “The Bash Sisters” for good reason.

When either Haylee Hayward or Chelsey Henry are at the plate, expect to see the ball get crushed.

“We do have a comfort level,” Hayward said. “We trust each other there in the lineup.”

It’s hard to say which hitter is more feared. Both have the potential to plant the ball beyond the outfield fence, or in an outfield gap.

They were a major part of the Philipsburg-Osceola softball team for the past four seasons, picking up District 6 titles and deep postseason runs along the way.

They are together on the field one last time Wednesday in the Pennsylvania Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Games at Penn State’s Beard Field. Two games are on the schedule, first for the District 6 all-stars at 6 p.m., then the best of District 6 faces the best of District 4 at about 8:30 p.m.

“We’ve been playing since we’ve been little together,” Hayward said of getting one more game with Henry. “It’s pretty awesome that we get another chance to play — at Penn State again. There’s nothing like playing at Beard Field. You strive to get there every single year.”

Hayward, Henry and the Lady Mounties program have plenty of fond memories at the stadium. There were a number of showdowns with rival Bald Eagle Area, but the biggest highlight came on June 6 in the first round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs.

Trailing 5-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, “The Bash Sisters” cracked back-to-back home runs to tie the game, then Hayward knocked in the game-winning run with a double in the eighth inning.

“That was the most insane thing I’ve ever been a part of,” said Hayward, the career home run record-holder at P-O. “My parents will just bring it up randomly, ‘Can you believe we did that?’ You know what? I honestly can’t believe that. You couldn’t have scripted that better.”

The duo was counted on heavily by coach Jim Gonder this season. They were the lone seniors on a roster filled with nine freshmen and sophomores. They were more than happy to carry the extra load, not just at the plate but even more importantly away from the games.

“From the very beginning of practice to the end,” said Gonder, who has more than 600 career wins and two PIAA titles to his credit, “these two seniors did an outstanding job keeping our team focused, keeping them motivated, picking them up when they were down, organizing team functions. They did it all.”

However, it wasn’t until this season that these two friends were back-to-back in the lineup, in the No. 3 and 4 spots. They were the run-producers, and also there to protect each other. If a team wanted to pitch around Hayward, walk her so she wouldn’t cause damage with her bat, Henry was right there to make them pay.

“If Haylee ground out, she could always count on me getting on base,” Henry said. “Or if I grounded out or popped out, I knew she was going to get on. We fed off each other. If one was having a bad day, we’d pick the other one up. And if both of us were having a good game, we were having a good day.”

They head their separate ways later this summer. Henry will go to the Bradford branch campus of the University of Pittsburgh and play softball. Hayward is headed to Slippery Rock, and plans to try out for both the basketball and softball teams.

First, on Wednesday night, they are together one more time, with a lot of former opponents as teammates for a night. Of the 28 all-star seniors set to play Wednesday, 12 are from Centre County schools.

“It’s been a tough four years,” Henry said. “I’m excited to meet everyone too. We don’t ever get to talk to each other after games. We see each other, we compete, and that’s it.”

After seeing their season end on a sour note, falling in the PIAA quarterfinals two weeks ago, it also gives them one last, happy memory for their high school softball careers.

And the P-O softball program meant as much to “The Bash Sisters” as they did to the Lady Mounties.

“I’ve become a better person, and I really have my coaches to thank for that,” Henry said. “I’ve made so many friendships and branched out so much.”

Hall of Fame inductions

Between games, a number of major contributors to area softball will be inducted into the District 6 PSBCA Hall of Fame. Out of the 10 inductees, six were standouts at Centre County programs in the past decade.

Set for induction are P-O’s Amanda Arnold, Chelsea Rex and Mackenzie Wilson, while Taylor Parsons and Jasa Mitchell are in from rival Bald Eagle Area and Danielle Gomola from Bellefonte.

Also going in are Bethany Kopchik, Jada Larsen and Rebecca Kephart, of West Branch, and former Centre Daily Times Sports Editor Ron Bracken, who continues to cover local high school softball even in retirement.

Gordon Brunskill: 814-231-4608, @gordoncdt

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