Philipsburg-Osceola pitcher stymies Deer Lakes in PIAA quarterfinals
CRESSON — Deer Lakes accomplished what no other team had so far this postseason: putting runs on the board against Philipsburg-Osceola pitcher Kam Harris.
It wasn't enough.
A pair of seventh-inning runs couldn't change the outcome for Deer Lakes, which saw its season end with a 6-2 loss to Philipsburg-Osceola in a PIAA Class 3A softball quarterfinal Thursday at Mt. Aloysius.
“We were the last of eight teams in Triple-A, so to have been here and get to this point, it was a nice accomplishment,” Deer Lakes coach Craig Taliani said. “Certainly we would have liked to go on a little more, but it just didn't work out that way.”
The Lancers (16-3) became the latest team to fall victim to Harris, a sophomore who blanked Philipsburg-Osceola's three opponents in the District 6 playoffs before firing a one-hit shutout in a PIAA first-round win. Philipsburg-Osceola had shut out its past five opponents overall.
Harris retired the first 11 Deer Lakes batters, not allowing a hit until Katelynn Blair's two-out double in the fourth inning. The Lancers didn't score until the bottom of the seventh, when freshman Katrina Taliani knocked in a run with a groundout, and freshman Maura Cerra added an RBI single.
By then, it was too late.
“We brought our 9-irons instead of our drivers today,” Taliani said. “We had (three) strikeouts. We put the ball in play, but it's pretty easy when you're hitting fly ball outs. It's kind of unusual for us. We hit a lot better through the season, but you've got to credit the pitcher, too, for changing pace and hitting her spots.”
Deer Lakes also lost to Philipsburg-Osceola in the 2013 PIAA quarterfinals.
Harris allowed two runs on six hits in 6 1⁄3 innings before exiting, and Maggie Peck recorded the final out.
“Kam tired at the end there, but we feel comfortable bringing Maggie in if we need to,” Philipsburg-Osceola coach James Gonder said. “(Harris has) had a tremendous (playoffs). That's the first runs she's given up in the playoffs, in the last, what, 35 innings? Not bad.”
Philipsburg-Osceola had more offensive success. The Lady Mounties (19-3) scored a run in the first when Madison Lucas doubled with two outs and came across when Harris' line drive deflected off Deer Lakes second baseman Becca Hoffman's glove for an error.
Harris homered, and Kylie Thal doubled in a run to make it 3-0 in the third, and consecutive doubles by Peck, Hannah Thompson and Lucas made it a six-run margin in the sixth.
“With our pitching and our defense, (an early lead) is a big deal,” Gonder said. “It helps us keep the momentum and takes away their short game a little bit.”
The early deficit continued a recent trend for Deer Lakes, which allowed its opponent to score first in four of five WPIAL and PIAA playoff games. The WPIAL runner-up Lancers couldn't rally.
“I think we're just as capable of tagging the ball, too, but we just didn't get to that part of the game,” Taliani said. “Everybody here can hit. We figured we wanted to keep it close, one or two runs. We didn't want it to get too much out of hand. But they hit the ball.
“We had been fortunate a few times this season to fall behind early and caught up and got the lead back and held on. But the deeper you get, you can't give up leads.”
Lucas went 4 for 4 with a pair of doubles for Philipsburg-Osceola. Katelynn Blair doubled twice for Deer Lakes, and Makayla Blair added another double.
Philipsburg-Osceola will play WPIAL third-place finisher South Park in the PIAA semifinals Monday at a time and site to be determined, a rematch of a South Park victory from last season's state quarterfinals.
Deer Lakes' season ended after its fifth PIAA tournament appearance in six years.
“We had a good season,” Taliani said. “The girls performed very well. I think they achieved. These girls had the talent, and they achieved when they needed to. We won some big games throughout the season, so (I'm) very proud of them.”