The question came out of center field as softballs where flying all around a Bald Eagle Area practice at Milesburg Little League Field.
“Is a tuna really a fish?” asked Megan Peters.
Third baseman Marissa Tobias provided the answer.
“When does the Little League World Series start?” Peters would ask a few minutes later.
“I don’t even know where some of the stuff comes from,” second baseman Mikala Smith says. “She always is saying something.”
“Whatever comes into her mind, she just blurts out,” added shortstop Haley Giedroc. “It’s kind of funny because some of them don’t make sense. but some of them actually do when you think about it. When she graduates, who is going to ask them?”
There’s a method to what may seem like Peters’ madness.
The questions have helped lighten the mood in a pressure-filled postseason, which culminates at 5:30 p.m. Friday as the Lady Eagles (22-4) battle Central Columbia (23-2) for the PIAA Class AA title at Nittany Lion Softball Park.
BEA may be one of the loosest teams to ever play for the crown.
“I think it’s really important because if were were dead-focused on the game I think it would make us really up-tight and panicky about the game,” said Peters, one of two seniors on the squad. “I’m probably one of the most loose ones on the team. I like to talk about funny stuff and keep our mind off the worries.”
“Sometimes, it’s really laid back and we’re all joking around and sometimes it’s really intense and we get down and dirty a lot,” added Makenzie Proctor.
Coach Curt Heverly doesn’t mind a little joking, but he and his staff can run a tight ship, something he believes his team has benefited from over the course of season.
“I didn’t pass all of those manners classes and stuff,” Heverly said. “I give them heck. ... Overall they’ve handled it and they’ve gotten tougher. I’ve had three or four people who’ve watched these games say to me our kids are just a little tougher.”
Those hardened BEA players never thought they’d be anywhere near a PIAA title this season.
“We have worked so hard to get to this place,” Proctor said. “At the beginning of the season, we were just hoping we’d have as many wins as losses. Now looking at how far we’ve come and what we’ve accomplished, it’s amazing.”
“Our goal was to make it to the district finals game,” Peters said. “We didn’t know if we were going to win it. We just wanted to make it that far. To win it and be in the state finals, that was more than we could have asked for.”
Players say the big difference this season is how they relate to each other.
“We definitely got a lot closer as a team,” second baseman Mikala Smith said. “Last year, weren’t as close. We were more in cliques and not so much together. This year, we all talk to each other. We’re so much closer.”
“At the beginning of the year, we had a lot of drama,” pitcher Makennah Dyke said. “We had a lot of girls bickering back-and-forth. Coming together has really helped us.”
The Lady Eagles have saved all of the drama for the postseason. They’ve won three eight-inning games, rallying from behind in each.
“They don’t quit,” Heverly said. “They just battle and battle and battle.”
Dyke (17-3) has been outstanding and the senior right-hander has been backed by a defense that has made the spectacular play look routine.
BEA is also getting hits throughout its lineup. Proctor (.444), Olivia Andrews (.396), Giedroc (.380), Marissa Tobias (.364), Logan Fischer (.355), Smith (.325), Morgan Nyman (.279), Moreta Dyke (.273) and Makennah Dyke (.217) each have big poststeason hits to their credit.
The Lady Eagles will face a team that has bashed the ball all season.
Central Colmbia has scored runs in bunches. The Lady Blue Jays’ 10-5 victory over Susquenita in the semifinals was not out of the norm for productivity. Even in its two losses, Central Columbia score 10 and 9 runs.
They pounded Class A finalist Minersville 13-0 during the regular season.
“We just went out and tore into them,” said Central Columbia coach Duane Ford, who was won 772 games in his 45 seasons. “It was top to bottom. It’s almost always somebody.”
Ford said what was out of the norm was his team’s fielding against Susquenita. The Lady Blue Jays committed four errors in the first three innings.
“For much of the year, we were on track to set the school single-season record for fielding percentage and fewest errors,” Ford said. “Then we just started having a bunch of them.”
Like Dyke, Central Columbia’s Paige Siegrist is a control pitcher, who relies on her defense. “The ball is going to go into play and the team is going to make the plays,” Ford said. “That’s basically what we’ve been doing this year. She’s not going to mow down 10 or 12 people a game.”
Ford got a good look at BEA on Monday after his team’s semifinal triumph. “They looked pretty sound fundamentally,” he said. “The pitcher had good control. She didn’t have a lot of strikeouts, but she got her job done. The defense did its job and they scored seven runs. That’s usually enough to win.”
Ford said his team has worked hard to be in the final.
“I don’t care how talented you are,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of talented teams over the years that didn’t have some other ingredients that was needed and work is one of them.”
Both teams have a history of PIAA success. Ford led Central Columbia to the 1994 Class AA title, the only time the program has played for a PIAA crown. BEA is making its first title appearance under Heverly, but fifth overall. The Lady Eagles won in 2005 and 2009.
“I can’t wait to get here Friday,” Heverly said. “The state title, I never dreamed that was going to happen this year. I’m going to get them ready.”
The Lady Eagles will be playing their fourth game at Beard Field.
“Our first game against P-O there, I think we all had eyes bigger than our heads,” Peters said of the District 6 title game. “Now, I think we’re all like, ‘Cool we’re playing at Penn State.’ It’s like we’re playing a home game.”
After a pep rally Friday morning, there will be a team meal, some talk about the game and then the Lady Eagles will pile on the bus to listen to some “pump up” songs from assistant coach Bobbi Jo Davidson’s Ipod. They’ll sing the school alma mater and finally listen to a song called “Hustle” as the bus arrives.
After that, the only question left will be answered at Beard Field.
“When it comes down to it, it’s just about us playing our game and playing Bald Eagle softball,” Proctor said. “That’s how it should be.”
Follow Walt Moody on Twitter @wmoodycdt