UNIVERSITY PARK — An hour before Bald Eagle Area and Philipsburg-Osceola’s PIAA Class AA semifinal game Monday night, fans were redirected from the parking lots outside Beard Field to the lots outside Beaver Stadium.
Inside Nittany Lion Softball Park, the bleachers on both sides were already packed. The Lady Eagles and Lady Mounties put on a show in the District 6 championship game in front of 1,100 in the same park less than two weeks earlier. With a spot in the state championship game on the line, even more turned out to watch the fourth matchup between the rivals.
“There probably were a lot of people that took off work early today,” Philipsburg-Osceola supporter Tim Bainey said before the game. “I think anybody who could push an appointment off to tomorrow, pushed it off to tomorrow. Anybody you talked to, that was the big thing, ‘I’m going to get over to that game, so I better get leaving early.’ They didn’t want to park over at the football field today, so people left early to get here.”
By the start of the game, fans stood behind the bleachers, part of an official attendance of 1,350. Others stood beyond the right-field fence, while a few others caught the action from outside the park on the left-field side. The crowd was treated to another tight game after five innings before Bald Eagle Area pulled away for a 7-3 win. The Lady Eagles will take on Central Columbia, which beat Susquenita 10-5 in the other semifinal, in the title game Friday.
Bald Eagle Area baseball player Bryan Greene supported the Lady Eagles, wearing his baseball hat and eye black along with a BEA softball T-shirt.
Greene and his teammates were also in attendance for BEA’s 5-4 win over Philipsburg-Osceola in the district championship game.
“As a fan, it was wild,” Greene said. “I couldn’t even imagine how the players would have felt. I mean I’ve never played on a stage that big in my whole life.”
Philipsburg-Osceola grad Carly Gonder experienced a similar atmosphere at the 2011 PIAA championship game.
Gonder and the Lady Mounties captured the state title with a 1-0 victory over Brandywine Heights in front of a Nittany Lion Softball Park record crowd of 1,600.
“They had to move our state championship game to the first game because we just packed it,” Gonder said. “We had a huge crowd, so it’s exciting to see everyone. And being Bald Eagle, this is going to be one of the best games of this whole tournament.”
Ron Henry Sr., made the trip from Indiana, Pa., to support his granddaughter, Philipsburg-Osceola’s Chelsey Henry, as he has all season.
He was hoping to return Friday, but he was also excited to see how far the Lady Mounties’ players have come since their youth softball days.
“When I started following these girls, they couldn’t even catch the ball, stop a grounder, they couldn’t do nothing,” Henry said. “And now look at them. It’s great to see what they got accomplished.”
Bald Eagle Area’s fans will be back to support the Lady Eagles again Friday.
Tom Summers, of Milesburg, the grandfather of BEA’s Morgan Peters, said he’s constantly talking about the Lady Eagles at work and he’s already excited for the championship game.
“The girls said they feed off the fans,” Summers said before adding with a laugh, “so we give ’em lots of food.”