Bald Eagle Area coach Curt Heverly couldn’t explain it.
Neither could his players.
The things that had been a staple of their postseason run to the PIAA Class AA title game — pitching, defense and timely hitting — had disappeared at the wrong time.
And a hard-hitting Central Columbia team took full advantage.
The Lady Blue Jays pounded out 17 hits and took advantage of four errors to end BEA’s bid for a gold with a resounding 13-5 victory against the Lady Eagles at Nittany Lion Softball Park. Eight Central Columbia starters had at least one hit and scored a run in the contest which became a romp over the final two innings.
“It was a real good example of how we can hit,” said Lady Blue Jays catcher Mackenzie Klinger, who along with teammate Allison McCracken blasted long home runs. “We proved how we could play, how we could do and how we could hit the ball.”
“They hit bombs,” BEA center fielder Megan Peters said. “They’re a great hitting team. ... They deserved what they got.”
From the delayed start to the final out, nothing was the norm for BEA (22-5), which had won three straight postseason games at Beard Field.
“Just to be not what we are today hurt me and I really think it hurt the girls, too,” BEA coach Curt Heverly said. “It got away from us and I just don’t know what happened. I was looking out there and I didn’t see the same players I had before.”
“I feel like the rain delay and everything and then came back and we didn’t get to warm up as much as we could,” said pitcher Makennah Dyke, who had not given up five total runs in her three previous PIAA starts. “It just wasn’t going our way. ... It’s kind of embarrassing that we got beat that bad in a state championship game. It kid of hurts to know that we didn’t play to our potential.”
“We weren’t ourselves because we had more errors than we usually ever do,” said shortstop Haley Giedroc. “When we have errors, that just starts tearing us down and we start falling apart.”
An error, plus five hits helped Central Columbia (25-2) score four times in the top of the second as the Lady Blue Jays temporarily silenced the huge BEA crowd. Lady Blue Jays pitcher Paige Siegrist helped herself with a two-run single in the outburst.
But the Lady Eagles gave the faithful hope by rallying back in the bottom of the inning. Two hits and an error helped load the bases against Siegrist. With two outs, Giedroc fell behind 0-2, then fought back to draw a walk to drive in a run. Dyke then unloaded the bases with a three-run double into the left-center field gap to tie the score at 4-4.
The hits became too few and far between after that against Siegrist, who kept the Lady Eagles scoreless over the next four innings. Siegrist struggled at times with control, but got the big outs.
Dyke wasn’t as fortunate.
“I think they studied me a whole lot more than other teams have,” said the BEA ace, who finished the season 18-4. “They knew what to expect and they hit it.”
Megan Groszier doubled and scored on Rachel Davis’ RBI single to give Central Columbia the lead four good at 5-4 in the third inning. The Lady Blue Jays added another run in the inning.
Klinger made it 7-4 with a blast of the left ceter field fence. “I didn’t think it was a home run at all,” said Klinger. “I thought it was a nice base hit and then it turned out being a home run.”
Klinger’s shot was tiny compared to Allison McCracken’s two-run bomb that capped a four-run sixth that broke the game open. McCracken launched a towering drive that slammed into the “R” in Beard Field, written high upon the scoreboard in left field.
“They hit the ball,” Heverly said. “You’ve got to give them credit. They have a heck-of-a nice team.”
Central Columbia, which returns seven starters next season, tacked on two more runs in the seventh with the top of the order doing the damage again. Leadoff hitter Marissa Shelhamer, No. 2 Carley Swisher and No. 3 Kimberly Hollister were a combined 10 for 14, scored six runs and drove in seven. Shelhamer had four hits, while Swisher and Hollister had three each. Hollister drove in four.
Heverly pinch-hit several players in the seventh to get them some playing time in the title game and several responded to get BEA its final run. Tylor Yarrison singled and eventually scored on Peters’ infield hit.
BEA finished with nine hits, led by Olivia Andrews’ two singles.
The Lady Eagles were given a standing ovation by their fans, who waited to cheer for them to receive their silver medals and the runner-up trophy.
While many of their teammates shed tears for them, Peters and Dyke remained composed after playing their final games.
“I’m thankful for where we got,” Peters said. “Makennah and I don’t get to play next year. but these other girls do. They should definitely keep their heads up.”
“There’s nothing to be upset about,” said Dyke. “It would have been nice to win it all because it was my senior year, but that’s what next year is for for the rest of them.”
BEA returns seven starters next season and if anything history could be on their side. The Lady Eagles lost in 2004 and 2008 and came back PIAA crowns in 2005 and 2009
“Hopefully that’s the case,” Giedroc said.