MILESBURG — Thursday’s District 6 Class AA softball playoff opener against Penns Valley didn’t quite start the way Bald Eagle Area pitcher Makennah Dyke had hoped, but she sure was pleased with the finish.
Dyke overcame a rocky start and closed with six shutout innings as the fourth-seeded Lady Eagles advanced with a 10-3 triumph against the Lady Rams. BEA (16-4) will host fifth-seeded Bellwood-Antis, a 10-0 winner over Ligonier Valley, in Monday’s quarterfinals.
Thursday’s contest between Centre County rivals was anything but normal. Crazy might be a more apt description.
The game featured three delays, including a half-hour break following an injury to Penns Valley left fielder Kaleigh Jones. Lightning and rain also delayed the contest, which finished just ahead of a torrential downpour.
The No. 13 Lady Rams brought the thunder against Dyke and her teammates in the first inning. After a hard-hit out, Penns Valley used five singles and a walk to to plate three quick runs. Tangie Lyons, Jones and McKenna Lyons each drove in runs with sharp singles before Dyke got out of a bases-loaded jam with a strikeout and a groundout.
“We got off to a great start,” Penns Valley coach Don Lucas said. “Our gals were aggressive at the plate and it paid off.”
The rough start did not faze Dyke.
“When she came back in she said, ‘I got it Coach,’ and she did,” BEA’s Curt Heverly said. “I’m not surprised with how she pitched and we played pretty good defense.”
Dyke blanked the Lady Rams over the final six innings, allowing just two hits, a sixth-inning single by McKenna Lyons and a seventh-inning double by Nicole Harbaugh.
“I knew my team was behind me,” said Dyke, whose teammates committed just one error. Dyke struck out seven and walked two in the win, BEA’s third over Penns Valley this season.
Penns Valley’s Emma Kubalak also pitched well, but didn’t have the backing in the field. The Lady Rams committed six errors, which were integral as BEA scored multiple times in three at-bats.
BEA took the lead for good with a four-run second inning, an outburst that started with an error. Sydney Shultz singled home the first run. She also scored on Haley Geidroc’s two-out single to left. Jones’ throw appeared to beat Shultz home, but Lady Ram catcher Harbaugh couldn’t hold on as Shultz slid into the plate.
With runners at second and third, Mikayla Smith then followed with an infield single that plated two runs as the speedy Geidroc raced around from second base to score.
“That let all of the pressure off,” Dyke said of the outburst.
The bizarre third inning also started with a BEA runner reaching on an error and another drew a walk. With two outs, Dyke belted a long drive to left that hit the fence right where it met the foul pole, which is located beyond the fence, but pressed against it. The ball glanced off the fence and kicked left into foul territory.
Jones started to give chase, but fell and did not get up. A confused Dyke sped around to score on the three-run inside-the-park home run, the first homer of the senior’s career.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Dyke said. “My coach told me to keep running so I did.”
Jones suffered a severe leg injury and was transported from the field by an ambulance.
“I think that kind of took the wind out of their sails,” Heverly said.
The contest was delayed by 30 minutes as Jones received medical attention and there was a wait for the ambulance to arrive. It was also delayed another 30 minutes after lightning was seen in the area with two outs in the bottom of the fourth.
When the game resumed, three errors and Dyke’s RBI single led to two more runs in the fifth, before a short rain delay halted action with the Eagles leading 9-3.
“We had to bring our ‘A’ game and we just didn’t get it done today,” Lucas said. “They’ve got such a good team that you can’t give them any extra openings.”
Pinch-hitter Moreta Dyke’s RBI triple down the left field line against Penns Valley’s defense that was shifted toward right field accounted for the game’s final run. With two baserunners and the rain strengthening in the top of the seventh, BEA left fielder Olivia Andrews made a fine running catch in foul territory to end the contest. Andrews also had another nice catch in the game and shortstop Geidroc made several nice plays as BEA rallied.
“This team doesn’t get down when they fall behind,” Heverly said. “They know they can come back.”
After each had its postgame huddle, a touching moment ensued. The Lady Eagles headed to the Lady Rams dugout. The two county rivals then joined hands and prayed for Jones.
Seniors Ashley Struble, Megan Houser, Harbaugh, Courtney Ironside and Tangie Lyons each played in their final games for the Lady Rams. Harbaugh had two hits in the contest and Lyons had an outstanding diving catch in right field.
“I’m very proud of my team,” said Lucas, whose squad rebounded from an 0-6 start to the season.
Follow Walt Moody on Twitter @wmoodycdt