With two outs in the bottom of the third inning of Monday’s PIAA softball semifinal game between Bald Eagle Area and Philipsburg-Osceola, P-O’s Haylee Hayward hit a bullet just inside the bag at third that looked like a certain double.
Instead, BEA’s Marissa Tobias backhanded the shot and fired to first base for the final out of inning.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said a fan in disbelief, marveling at the play.
If he was impressed by that, imagine how shocked he would have been had he known that Tobias spent Saturday night in the emergency room and wasn’t discharged from the hospital until 1:30 a.m. Monday.
During last week’s PIAA preliminary game against Seton LaSalle on Penn State’s Beard Field, Tobias wound up with a nasty abrasion after sliding. As the week went on the wound became infected, causing her to make the trip to the hospital where she received two IV bags and instructions to use crutches and stay off her feet as much as possible.
“I’m supposed to be on crutches all week,” she said. “It bothered me in warmups. It definitely affected the way I ran, threw and I had to make adjustments in my swing. But I worked my butt off to get here so I was definitely not not playing. Not playing wasn’t an option. It would have crushed me if I hadn’t been able to play. The hospital didn’t say I couldn’t play so it was just a matter of mental toughness more than anything.”
As much as anything that symbolized the attitude of the Lady Eagles on their march toward a possible PIAA title on Friday. Being behind in games, sometimes down to their last out, didn’t faze them. They just did whatever it took to move on.
Monday that was answering P-O’s game-tying rally in the bottom of the fifth inning with four runs in the top of the sixth. And when the Lady Mounties answered that with two runs, the Lady Eagles matched that with two more in the top of the seventh to go on to win 7-3.
And it was Tobias who drove in BEA’s first run of the game with a sharp single that drove in Mikala Smith in the top of the fourth inning. She finished the day with a pair of hits and two RBIs.
She also teamed with Hayley Giedroc to give the Lady Eagles a chain-link fence on the left side of the infield. Giedroc made a sparkling defensive play of her own, going to her backhand side on her knees, fielding the ball and firing a strike to first base for the out, robbing Hayley Frank of a hit. Giedroc also matched Tobias at the plate with two hits including a double to dead center to kick off the sixth-inning rally.
“I thought it was going out,” Giedroc said of the double. “On any other field we play on it would have been out. This field is huge (220 feet to dead center). I just ran my hardest and got the most bases I could get.”
Preventing the Lady Mounties from getting on base was what she and Tobias did Monday in a game that showcased what were arguably the two best third base-shortstop combinations in Class AA when you consider the P-O tandem of Hayward and Abby Showers.
“We’ve been playing together since we were 9,” Tobias said of her partnership with Giedroc. “We know each other’s range. If I dive for a ball I know she has my back. If she dives she knows I have her back.”
Giedroc was still amped up well after the final out, looking back on this game, looking ahead to Friday’s matchup with Central Columbia in the state finals.
“I could play another game right now,” she said. “This feels great. I don’t know if I even thought we could get this far. I think it’s going to take a while longer for this to sink in. I think when we came back and beat Bellwood-Antis (in the District 6 quarterfinals) we knew that if we could do that, if we played as a team and worked hard, anything was possible.”
So now the team that was unfazed by the records or traditions of its opponents is a win away from BEA’s third state title in 10 years. But in both 2005 and 2009, the path was cleared by the previous year’s teams which lost in the finals. This group finds itself in uncharted waters.
“Everyone just pushed us aside,” said Tobias. “They never thought we’d make it here. But we go into every game with the same attitude, that anything can happen.”
And Tobias was determined she wasn’t going to miss out on any of it. When she singled in the seventh inning, coach Curt Heverly asked her if she wanted a pinch-runner.
“I told him, ‘Nope, I don’t want one.’” she said.
Nor does she want another trip to the emergency room.
“I’ll try to stay off my feet the next three days,” she said. “Hopefully, there will be no more hospital trips. I’m running out of arms to stick the IV in.”