It was no big deal to the Neshannock High softball team.
A 3-hour trip back to Penn State University for their PIAA Class AA first-round matchup with Philipsburg-Osceola, which was postponed on Monday because of rain, only meant another jam session on the bus. And having another night to think about the fact that the Lady Lancers were up against the defending state champions just meant their season was extended another day.
At least, that’s how it appeared to Neshannock coach Tracy Kimmel.
“As soon as it was announced that (Penn State University) was where we were playing, the girls were all excited,” he said. “We didn’t think we’d be making two bus trips, but they’re young kids. They don’t care. They were jammin away on the bus and having a good time. It was no problem.”
They enjoyed themselves once they arrived at Beard Field in Happy Valley, too.
Neshannock’s Rayanna Furst hit a two-run double in the top of the eighth inning to stun Philipsburg-Osceola, the returning PIAA Class AA champions, 5-3, in extra innings. The Lady Lancers now play Fairview at noon tomorrow at Allegheny College in Meadville.
The victory was Neshannock’s first ever in the state playoffs and advanced the Lady Lancers to the state quarterfinals.
“I don’t think people realize how good we are,” Kimmel said. “We’re 21-1, so we have some ability. We’re very capable of playing good ball. If the bats come around, we could win it all.”
They had to dethrone the reigning champs if they wanted a shot.
The game started on Monday, and Philipsburg-Osceola led, 1-0, after two innings, but rain caused the contest to be pushed back to 1 p.m. yesterday. Despite not getting back till 11 p.m. and then leaving at 8 a.m. for the return trip, the Lady Lancers (21-1) were ready from the start.
They took a 2-1 lead in the fourth off an RBI triple by Amanda Furst, Rayanna’s older sister, and a run-scoring single by Alexandra Fischer. The game stayed tied until the seventh. Rayanna Furst, who finished 3 for 5, singled to start the inning and eventually scored on a fielder’s choice to give Neshannock a 3-2 lead. But the Lady Mounties (20-5) rallied in the ninth, tying it with a pair of doubles.
Neshannock didn’t allow the letdown to faze them. After a ground out to start the eighth, Katie Burrelli singled, and following another out, Rachel Iorio singled as well. That brought Rayanna Furst to the plate with two down. She worked the count full before belting a two-run double to the left-center field gap.
Kimmel said he briefly talked with Rayanna before her key at-bat.
“She’s more of an on-base girl, but she has a really good swing,” Kimmel said. “It’s as nice as anyone on the team, but she doesn’t have a lot of confidence in herself to hit for power. I pulled her aside before that last at-bat, and I said, ‘Ray I need you to really drive the ball. We don’t need any more baserunners. I’m looking for a gapper. You can do this.’
“I hope it helped a little, but she still had to get up there and do it.”
Her sister Amanda made sure the runs stood up, setting Philipsburg-Osceola down 1-2-3 in the ninth. Amanda Furst allowed three runs — two earned — on seven hits and three walks. She struck out three. She also went 2 for 3 with an RBI at the plate.
Neshannock was able to rough up Katie Burgh, who came into the game with an ERA under 2.00. The Lady Lancers totaled 10 hits off Burgh, who struck out six and walked one.
The Lady Lancers now square off with Fairview (22-0), which is 43-1 over last two years.
“We’re looking forward to the next game,” Kimmel said. “It was a good first step, but we want to try to continue on. We didn’t win anything today, we just get to play another game.”