Silver lining: Fans proud as state title eludes Bald Eagle Area

bmilazzo@centredaily.comJune 14, 2014 

— A group of teens who painted their chests in school colors could be heard around the stadium as they cheered on the Bald Eagle Area High School softball team.

The BEA girls lost to Central Columbia,13-5, in the state Class AA championship game Friday night, but fans said the team has nothing to be ashamed of.

“We’re proud of them,” said senior Nate Cleaver. “They didn’t even think at the beginning of the year they’d end the season with a .500 (record), so this is huge. It’s really awesome.”

A rain delay in the middle of the Claysburg-Kimmel/ Minersville game, before Bald Eagle played, sent thousands huddling under covered walkways outside nearby residence halls on Penn State’s campus. That delayed the start of BEA-Central Columbia by nearly two hours.

But fan Rochelle Dubbs, of Julian, said, “the storm only added to the anticipation of the (BEA) game” at Nittany Lion Softball Park.

“The rain is a bummer, but it’s fun and they make us proud,” said Dubbs, who is a BEA alumna and cousin of infielders Moreta Dyke and Logan Fischer.

Once play resumed and the sold-out crowd was directed back to its seats, there was no stopping fans from cheering on the Eagles.

Softball moms like Jodi Proctor, of Julian, and Tiffany Shultz raced down the stands to sit in the front row on the first base side toward home plate.

They were clad in Bald Eagle T-shirts with their daughters’ numbers on the back.

Six fans — five BEA seniors and a friend from Bellefonte — painted their chests blue and gold. Cleaver, Dakota Bartley, Bryan and Bryce Greene, Tanner Light and Drew Miller each took a letter to spell out “eagles.”

Cleaver, 18, and Bryan Greene, 18, even included the names and numbers of their girlfriends, Makennah Dyke and Morgan Peters, on their backs.

“It’s been nuts,” said Greene.

“We had a pep rally today (Friday) with a special event to celebrate the girls and everyone’s being really supportive, and we’re really proud of our girls and the whole team.”

Milesburg turned blue and gold in support of the softball team Friday. Homes and businesses pitched signs in the yards — some that said “Fly Eagles Fly.”

“I think Milesburg is a really good example of how the whole community embraced this,” Cleaver said. “Even the post office had signs and stuff. It was really cool.”

Dana Barnhart was rooting on her niece, Sydney Shultz.

She added that the closeness of the district was like a second family cheering on the girls.

“It’s such a close-knit community, and you see generations who go to Bald Eagle and play softball,” said Barnhart, a Milesburg resident and 1994 BEA graduate.

“It’s really generational and we’re really proud to give back in support of this team.”

Other students said support was also shown on social media.

Sophomores Caleb Bell, 16, and Elliot Peters, 16, said people were changing their Facebook profile pictures to one that said, “Keep Calm and Fly Eagles Fly.”

Others were posting images on Instagram of the signs they made in their front yards, the two said.

“We’re really here to support them no matter what,” Peters said.

“It’s been a long time since they’ve been in this situation and we’re just proud. Everyone comes together like this when you’re from a pretty small school.”

When the team accepted its runner-up award through PIAA, the crowd, including Central Columbia fans, gave them a standing ovation.

“They’ve done us proud this whole year,” Cleaver said.

Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.

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