Southmoreland’s magical run ends with PIAA semifinals loss

Monday, June 11, 2018 | 7:48 PM

LORETTO — The Southmoreland softball team returned home Monday night after losing its grip on a chance to play for a state championship this season.

Imagine that.

Southmoreland's magical run is over after a 15-4 loss to District 6 champion Philipsburg-Osceola in the PIAA Class 3A semifinals at St. Francis (Pa.).

But even the mention of achieving a PIAA title at the school was unheard of until this season, when the softball team won the school's first WPIAL championship and played deep into the postseason, coming within a game of advancing to Penn State to play for a state crown.

“An incredible bunch of girls,” Southmoreland coach Todd Bunner said. “A lot of heart. Never quit. What can I say about them? I could talk about each one of those girls, but there's not enough time for that.”

Hannah Thomas and winning pitcher Kameron Harris hit two-run homers in the sixth inning to break open the game, and Harris collected six RBIs for Philipsburg-Osceola (24-1), which won its 17th consecutive game dating to its only loss, a 6-5, nine-inning decision to Bald Eagle Area on April 23.

Harris allowed eight hits, struck out six and walked two. At one point, with the outcome still in doubt, she retired nine Southmoreland batters in a row.

The latest victory sends the Mounties to the championship game on Thursday at Penn State against District 2 champion Holy Redeemer, a 2-0 winner over District 11 champion North Schuylkill in the other semifinal.

“The expectations for this team have been high from the beginning,” Philipsburg-Osceola coach Jim Gonder said, “and they've lived up to it.”

Philipsburg-Osceola is aiming for its third PIAA softball championship after claiming titles in 2007 and '11. It will be the Mounties' fifth trip to the state finals. They finished as runners-up in 2000 and '10.

Philipsburg-Osceola erased a 2-1 Southmoreland lead on Lacey Potter's RBI single in the fourth and went ahead for good, 4-2, on Harris' two-run single in the fifth.

The Mounties then erupted against Southmoreland freshman Jess Matheny and junior reliever Lexi Klatt for four runs in the sixth on those two-run homers and seven more in the seventh, when they sent 12 batters to the plate.

“I'm not going to make any excuses whatsoever,” Bunner said. “Our pitchers did not have it today. You could probably see that from the very beginning. The umpire had a very, very tight strike zone. It was not matched up with the kind of pitchers that we have, and I think that (P-O) saw early on, too.

“Once we couldn't throw strikes to where we wanted to throw strikes, the ball had to come down the middle and those girls are good hitters. That's a good-hitting team, a very well-coached team. That's what happens whenever you get squeezed like that. Again, I am not blaming the umpire. He called it very tight for both teams.”

Charity Henderson and Bethany Bunner homered for Southmoreland (12-8), which ended the regular season on a four-game losing skid but got hot in the WPIAL playoffs.

Matheny's RBI single for Southmoreland scored Bunner, who earlier singled, to tie the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the first. Philipsburg-Osceola had taken a 1-0 lead on Harris' sacrifice fly, scoring Kylie Thal, who led off the game against Matheny with a walk.

Matheny, a lefthander, continued to pitch — she played right field briefly before returning to the mound — with a torn knee ligament that will require surgery.

She managed just one strikeout against Philipsburg-Osceola after fanning 10 in a 7-0 quarterfinals victory over District 10 champion Hickory on Thursday.

Henderson's solo homer in the third put Southmoreland ahead, 2-1. But Philipsburg-Osceola pulled even in the top of the fourth on Potter's run-scoring hit.

Later, leading 4-2, the Mounties blew the game open with a four-run sixth to take 9-2 advantage.

“There was a chance until the sixth, when they scored those four,” Todd Bunner said. “That starts to give you a little bit of a doubt.”

Things completely unraveled for Southmoreland in the seventh, but afterwards, Bunner was upbeat.

“I'll tell you what, we have had so much support from every person in Scottdale,” he said. “Our school board members, our athletic director, coaches on other teams, organizations throughout Scottdale have constantly been there for us. It's been an incredible, incredible support from our community. Absolutely. It's really been fun.”

Dave Mackall is a freelance writer.


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