Bald Eagle Area softball advances to district finals

In Bald Eagle Area softball’s dugout hangs a small piece of white printer paper taped to the wall.

In black lettering it reads, “So what, WHAT’S NEXT?”

Lady Eagles coach Don Lucas said it was something an assistant coach came up with; something players can look at in times of frustration.

Have bad error? Strikeout looking? Move on. What’s next?

On Thursday night, the Lady Eagles didn’t make too many mistakes. They were efficient in the batter’s box, clean in the field, and effective from the circle.

And now, “what’s next” for BEA is a trip to the district title game.

The Lady Eagles defeated Central for the third time this season — this time 8-5 in the District 6 Class AA semifinals.

No. 3 seeded BEA (15-4) will face No. 1 Philipsburg-Osceola (19-2) in the district title game on June 1 at Penn State’s Beard Field. The Lady Mounties handled Ligonier Valley 6-2 on Thursday.

Both the Lady Eagles and Mounties secured spots in the PIAA Class AA state tournament, but will be looking forward to their district title matchup.

The recent history between BEA and P-O is well-documented. The two sides met in the district title game and PIAA semifinals in 2014, both of which the Lady Eagles won.

Before thinking of a potential rematch, though, BEA had to get past Central, something Lucas felt somewhat uneasy about.

The Lady Dragons had only four regular-season losses. Two of them came at the hands of BEA.

But for a team to beat another three times in one season is a difficult task to accomplish, and Lucas knew it.

“That’s something that ate at me all week,” the first-year Lady Eagles coach said, “thinking about having to come back up here, it’s a tough thing to do.”

BEA did it though, thanks to an early lead. The Lady Eagles scored two in the top of the first on a sacrifice fly and passed ball, and tacked on another in the second on a fielder’s choice.

The Lady Eagles increased their lead in style in the third.

After Sidney Shultz singled to open the inning, Morgan Peters blasted a two-run home run over the left-field wall and toward the parked cars.

Peters trotted around the bags, jumped on the plate, and “dabbed” several times. Walking back to the dugout surrounded by her elated teammates, the senior let out a Ric Flair-esque “Woo!”

She couldn’t help herself.

“It felt amazing,” Peters said. “Our team is kind of nuts. ... When we’re having fun, we always hit the ball better.”

As the dust from BEA’s celebration settled, it held a firm 5-0 lead.

In the field, Lady Eagles starter Zoey Surovec was dealing. The freshman, who earned the win, was flawless through the first two frames, and ended up allowing five runs (four earned) through five innings of work.

BEA sophomore Moreta Dyke relieved her to secure the save — and the Lady Eagles’ lead. Dyke went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings to close it out.

Central coach Dale Walters thought his side could forge a comeback, but was impressed with BEA’s resilience.

“It’s really hard to face a good team three times in one year. I’d rather face a bad team three times in one year,” Walters said with a laugh. “Hey, hats off to them. ... They’re just a better team than we are right now. That’s all you can say.”

Now that the Lady Eagles have ousted Central, they can turn their focus toward fulfilling another goal.

Peters said the team talked in the preseason about winning the district title and, eventually, the state championship.

On June 1, they’ll take a crack at that first one, and Lucas couldn’t be prouder.

“To be with a new group of girls, it’s new dreams,” the coach said. “I’m just glad to have been a part of it.”

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9