PHILIPSBURG — Bald Eagle Area softball coach Curt Heverly worked over the hard plastic trash can outside of the visitor’s dugout for a few seconds like Mike Tyson punching on the heavy bag.
Such was the raw emotion and sheer joy for the Lady Eagles after the final out of Monday’s 4-3 triumph over Philipsburg-Osceola. The victory clinched at least a share of the Mountain League title for the Lady Eagles, who can take home the crown outright with a victory Tuesday at Central. It also solidified that BEA can beat one of the state’s Class AA heavyweights and the four-time defending District 6 Class AA champions heading into the postseason, which starts Thursday.
“There was a lot of emotion,” said Heverly, who returned this season after having led the program to a District 6 Class AA crown in 2003. “It was for the league title. ... To come back this year to win the league title, after the way the girls were in the fall when I took this program. These coaches and girls have responded. It’s unbelievable.”
“It’s the biggest game of our season,” said beaming pitcher Makennah Dyke, who tossed a six-hitter against the five-time defending Mountain League champs. “It’s the biggest win of our season, definitely. ... We knew we could beat them but we didn’t know if we could actually put it together enough. We’re really happy that we did.”
The contest was decided by defense.
Led by shortstop Haley Geidroc, Bald Eagle Area’s fielders made several sparkling plays that would earn stars in any scorebook. Philipsburg-Osceola, which has been forced to juggle its lineup without standout shortstop Abby Showers, made four errors, three in BEA’s three-run fourth inning.
Logan Fischer’s diving catch saved a run in the fourth. Left fielder Olivia Andrews and Geidroc speared liners in the seventh to stymie P-O’s attempts to rally.
“I thought we hit the ball on the button a lot,” P-O coach Jim Gonder said. “They made some good plays. Their shortstop has a gun. She has a cannon out there. ... I could name four or five plays that were game-changers.”
“My team’s defense was incredible today,” said Dyke, who walked two and struck out four. “I knew they were behind me and that no matter what I did they had my back.”
Fischer put BEA (14-3) in front by leading off the second with a home run to right-center field off Lady Mountie starter Chelsey Henry. P-O’s Haylee Hayward tied it an inning later with a deep blast to center.
The fourth was the difference as BEA took advantage of three miscues behind Henry. With runners at second and third and no outs, Andrews drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI groundout. The damage could have halted there, but an error prolonged the inning. Morgan Nyman took advantage by ripping an RBI double to right-center and the final run scored on another error.
P-O (16-3) fought back. Haley Frank and Kenzie Burge hit back-to-back doubles in the fifth to cut the margin to 4-2. An inning later, Henry made it a one-run contest with a blast to left that narrowly eluded Andrews at the fence.
Frank (by Andrews) and Burge (a leaping grab by Geidroc) were robbed in the seventh. After pitching carefully and walking Showers, Dyke got the dangerous Megan Bainey to swing at a 3-2 pitch to end the game.
“What a game,” Heverly said. “They just refused to lose.”
“I thought they deserved to win,” Gonder said. “They had some timely hits, good defense and their pitcher did a nice job. That’s the ingredients of a good win.”
While her coach whipped the trash can after the last out, Dyke pumped her fist in celebration.
It was quite a moment for one of two BEA seniors, who has struggled with health problems this season. As late as last Tuesday, Dyke was hospitalized for an illness doctors have yet to solve.
“This year has been quite a struggle for me,” Dyke said. “... No matter how I feel that I know that they will help me and that makes me feel much better.”
P-O, a PIAA semifinalist last season, also has health concerns. For now, Showers can hit, but can’t play the field.
Gonder says his team has been resilient without the All-State shortstop.
“Obviously, it’s not optimal,” he said. “We would prefer to have her in the lineup, but the people replacing her have done a pretty good job. It’s given kids a lot of experience. In the long run, it may help us because it’s getting kids out there that might not have gotten the same kind of playing time.”
Fischer and Burge (two doubles) were the only players with multiple hits Monday. Morgan Williamson allowed one hit in three scoreless innings of relief of Henry.
Both teams have games Tuesday leading into Thursday’s playoff openers. If BEA falls to Central, P-O can still get a piece of the Mountain League crown with a win over Bellefonte Tuesday.
The second-seeded Lady Mounties host No. 15 Central Cambria, while No. 4 BEA hosts No. 13 Penns Valley on Thursday in the District 6 Class AA playoffs. Both games are at 4 p.m.