Bald Eagle Area coach Curt Heverly gathered his team in left field before its game against Bellefonte.
Heverly has been frustrated at times this season, watching his players go through the motions in the first few innings or settle into cruise control after building a lead, and he wanted to see them play with intensity for seven innings Saturday. He wanted to see them hustle on and off the field, take the extra base and stay aggressive. He wanted to see them show maturity.
But by the fifth inning, with the Lady Eagles clinging to a one-run lead, Heverly was repeating his pregame speech near the dugout.
“They show some immaturity at times and I talked to them about you got to look at who Bellefonte has at your position and when today's over, you got to play better than that girl,” Heverly said. “I said to them in the fifth inning, it's 2-1. I said Bellefonte's playing better than you at every position. I said you got to get it in your head you're not going to let that happen.”
Bald Eagle Area finally turned it on and pulled away with six runs in the final two innings to earn an 8-1 win over the Lady Red Raiders. Haley Giedroc went 2-for-4 and scored two runs to go with a two-run double in the sixth for the Lady Eagles (10-3). Mikayla Smith finished 2-for-3 and scored two runs, and Marissa Tobias drove in two runs. Makennah Dyke pitched a complete game to earn the win. Bellefonte (8-5) failed to convert on two bases-loaded opportunities and committed three errors in the final two innings to contribute to Bald Eagle Area’s outburst.
“We had opportunities, they had opportunities,” Bellefonte coach Gregg Kohlhepp said. “Early on it was a good 2-1 battle and it would have been nice if it ended 2-1. I think we'd feel better about it, but it just got away from us, got out of control, again we didn't handle pressure well at times.”
The Lady Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 lead with runs in the first and second innings.
Bellefonte got on the board in the third, when Vanessa Cooper crushed a towering blast into the trees beyond the left-field fence. Heverly said it’s the longest home run he’s seen at Bald Eagle Area’s field in Milesburg. And he decided that was the last pitch she’d see all day, walking her twice on eight pitches in her last two at bats.
Cooper’s first walk loaded the bases with one out in the top of the fifth.
But the Lady Eagles stepped up defensively to protect the lead. Smith handled a ground ball at second base and fired home for the second out. Right fielder Logan Fischer then made a jumping catch on Angela Capparelle’s line drive to end the inning.
“Two days in a row she's made a great play out there,” Heverly said. “That was big for us. I thought that was over her head, and she just got back there and reached up and got it.”
Heverly emerged from the dugout with a fist pump as his team ran off the field. It was time for the Lady Eagles to pick up their intensity.
And they did in the bottom of the fifth.
Giedroc led off with an infield single. She took an extra base, advancing to third base, on a spinning groundout back to Bellefonte pitcher Tara Baney and scored when Smith singled to left field. Smith kept the pressure on the Lady Raiders, advancing to third on an errant throw on a stolen base attempt and scoring on a sacrifice fly by Tobias to push the lead to 4-1.
“We went out there and hit the ball hard,” Kohlhepp said. “They made some great defensive plays to keep it 2-1, and unfortunately the game turned after that against us, and we lost composure at points.”
Bald Eagle Area added four runs in the sixth, and the Lady Eagles made the plays defensively to escape a no-out, bases loaded jam in the seventh.
Though his players still need to mature, Heverly said he’s learned he gets more nervous than they do in his first season.
“I want them doing the right thing, and they pretty much have done the right thing defensively,” Heverly said. “I had a couple days last week I wasn't happy with them, but we play solid defense and make the plays.”