The Bald Eagle Area softball team has been compared to another animal not as majestic as an eagle.
“I don’t know about that,” Curt Heverly said.
It’s meant to be a compliment, since the Lady Eagles (20-4) have been so hard to get rid of in the postseason.
Heading into Thursday’s PIAA Class AA quarterfinal against Wilmington (17-3) at 1 p.m. at Slippery Rock University, BEA has trailed late in multiple playoff games, but no one has been able to beat Heverly’s club.
Twice the Lady Eagles have been on the brink of elimination heading into their final at-bat. Trailing 6-4, they tied Bellwood-Antis in the seventh and won 7-6 in the eighth. In Monday’s PIAA opener against Seton LaSalle, they were down to their last out, but rallied to tie the game in the seventh and win 2-1 in the eighth.
“I think we are hard to kill,” shortstop Haley Giedroc said. “We’re just going to keep fighting until the very end. We’re not going to let them kill our focus or our self-esteem. We’re going to just keep pulling through and get that ‘W.’”
While those two wins have kept BEA alive, Giedroc said it was the District 6 title game against Philipsburg-Osceola that has made the biggest difference with this team.
Before a standing-room only crowd of 1,100 that sounded much louder, BEA rallied from 4-1 down to knock off the four-time defending district champs 5-4 in eight innings.
“We were nervous,” Giedroc said. “That was our first big game. We had a lot of support. It was really loud. The game was on the line. We were very pressured.
“After that game, we’re not nervous. We feel more comfortable. All of that pressure got lifted off of us and we feel a lot better now.”
Heverly, who had coached softball once previously at BEA, said the season has gone beyond expectations and that said the community has rallied around his squad.
“I don’t go anywhere without people coming up to me, ‘How we going to do tonight? How are we going to do tonight?,’” Heverly said. “I think the whole place is involved. I went to a T-ball game for my grandkids (Tuesday) and people were over there talking about what the girls are doing and what we’ve accomplished this year. People are paying attention.”
So much attention, that when Heverly took a spill trying to hold Olivia Andrews at third base in Monday’s PIAA game, he became online sensation when someone snapped a photo.
“They told me I was a star on Instagram,” Heverly said. “I’m not sure what Instagram is.”
While there’s plenty of buzz surrounding his team, Heverly said the players are handling the attention well.
“This team is funny,” he said. “They get a little nervous or excited when the game starts, but they sure aren’t excited during the week. They handle this very well. They’re calm and collected about it.”
Freshmen Olivia Andrews, who drove in the game-winning run Monday, and Moreta Dyke, along with sophomores Mikala Smith, Logan Fischer and Morgan Nyman have contributed key hits in the postseason for a team that starts just two seniors.
“I’m not even sure some of the younger ones understand it yet,” Heverly said. “It hasn’t even hit them.”
Giedroc says the Lady Eagles are trying to keep everything in perspective. The team struck out 17 times against Seton LaSalle’s Lauren Zola on Monday and had a couple of defensive lapses early in the contest.
The junior scoffed at the thought that destiny or fate has had anything to do with the Lady Eagles’ postseason run.
“I think it’s all hard work,” Giedroc said. “… This season with a new coach, we just wanted a new start. We’ve been working hard and the harder we’ve worked the better results we’ve got. I think it’s more than fate. It’s hard work in the end.”
Giedroc said Heverly pushes the team in practice, which is part of the reason the Lady Eagles have made so many standout defensive plays throughout the regular season and playoffs.
“He works us hard at practice,” said Giedroc, who sports several scrapes from diving for grounders. “He wants to see good results. If he doesn’t see it, we keep working on it over and over. After all of that hard work, I guess he gets to see what he wants.”
Heverly wants to see another win and his team will have to knock off a hard-hitting district champion to get it.
Entering Monday’s 8-7 win over WPIAL runner-up Deer Lakes, Wilmington was hitting .366 as a team. The Lady Greyhounds have scored 7 or more runs in 14 of their victories.
Wilmington is led by Alexis Donati, who topped the team with a .549 batting average, five homers and 34 RBIs heading into Monday’s game. Alanna Elliott (.450), Chelsea Rogel (.424) and Courtney Cohen (.406) also hit above the .400 mark heading into the PIAAs.
Deer Lakes committed six errors, including three in a four-run sixth, as the Lady Greyhounds rallied from a 7-4 deficit
Kayleigh Shenker has earned every pitching decision for Wilmington. The senior isn’t overpowering, but has a solid 2.37 ERA.
Makennah Dyke (15-3) will be in the circle for BEA. Dyke tossed a brilliant three-hitter against Seton LaSalle on Monday.
“She has just been amazing,” Heverly said of his senior right-hander.
The winner will face the winner between Philipsburg-Osceola and Beaver on Monday in the Class AA Western finals.