High School Sports

Here’s how Bald Eagle Area softball beat P-O to advance to the district championship

How Maegan King sent BEA softball to the District 6 finals

King doubled off P-O’s Kam Harris in the sixth inning, driving in two runs and giving the Lady Eagles a lead it wouldn’t surrender.
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King doubled off P-O’s Kam Harris in the sixth inning, driving in two runs and giving the Lady Eagles a lead it wouldn’t surrender.

Tension was high in the bottom of the sixth of a tied game between Bald Eagle Area and Philipsburg-Osceola softball. The Lady Eagles had bases loaded and no outs. P-O pushed its infield in. A spot in the District 5/6 Class 3A title game and a trip to the PIAA tournament were on the line — and everyone waited.

BEA’s Madison Peters, ceding first base to a courtesy runner after drawing a walk, took a minute to chat with teammate Maegan King prior to King’s season-altering at-bat. “I stood right on the line, right up on the plate, and it really flustered Kam (Harris),” Peters said of her walk. “We needed this one. So I told Maegan to get up on that line just like I did. ... I had full faith in her.”

King delivered on that faith. The sophomore frustrated Harris, one of Centre County’s finest pitchers, with a 10-pitch at-bat on Thursday. Fighting a 3-2 count, King cracked four consecutive foul balls down the third-base line — until, finally, on that 10th pitch, she drove a line drive into left field. King’s double scored two, giving the BEA crowd a reason to erupt and earning the Lady Eagles a lead it wouldn’t surrender.

BEA is on to the District 5/6 Class 3A finals after an 8-4 win at the Milesburg Little League Complex. While P-O’s impressive campaign came to an end, the Lady Eagles move on to face Chestnut Ridge in the district championship game on May 29. They’ll also continue their season in the PIAA playoffs, which begin June 3.

“It’s a testament to how hard these gals have worked,” BEA coach Don Lucas said with a smile. “Any time you beat a Jim Gonder team, you have to say, ‘Wow.’ He’s such a good coach, and he puts such a good team on the field. ... Usually it’s a one- or two-run game.”

That is typically the case between BEA and P-O. The teams faced each other twice in the regular season before Thursday’s semifinal tilt. The Lady Mounties took the first meeting, 5-4, at home on April 4. The Lady Eagles took the second, 6-5, on April 29. And it looked as if the third matchup would be much of the same.

BEA’s King belted a solo home run in the second inning, while teammate Maralee Caldana did the same in the fourth. P-O starting pitcher Kylie Adams fared well; aside from those two dingers, she kept BEA off the scoreboard. And Peters was perfect through three innings for the Lady Eagles, needing only 24 pitches to sit down nine straight batters.

Peters, the Mountain League’s 2019 second-team pitcher, threw those first three frames with a purpose. Harris was the Mountain League’s first-team choice, and the BEA sophomore wanted to prove herself worthy of the honor. (“Let’s show them who’s better,” Peters said.) Lucas, meanwhile, called her first three innings “classic Maddie Peters”: Relaxed and in control.

That command got a bit dicey in the top of the sixth, though. Down 2-0, P-O’s Jordyn McDonald tied it up with a two-run double to the center-field wall. Two hitters later, Harris — the Lady Mounties’ No. 3 hitter — drove a line drive to center. It was caught, and P-O’s runner at second base got doubled up. But McDonald tagged and scored to give the Lady Mounties a 3-2 lead.

The Lady Mountie dugout was rocking. And with Harris on the mound after entering in the fourth inning, there was reason to believe P-O would close it out. “We had a 3-2 lead going into the bottom of the sixth. We had our ace who was fresh,” P-O coach Jim Gonder said with a shrug. “Hats off to their hitters.”

BEA’s Makena Baney led off the bottom of the sixth with a single through the left side, Mara Hockenberry doubled down the third-base line, Caldana was intentionally walked, and Peters worked a five-pitch walk to knot the game at 3-3 before King stepped up. After the sophomore’s patient, pesky and productive at-bat that gave BEA its 5-3 lead, Harris was pulled. Adams returned, and the deficit ballooned to 8-3.

P-O senior Rachel Simpson crushed a solo home run in the top of the seventh, but the Lady Mounties couldn’t muster a sustained rally. King’s two-run double was enough on its own to push BEA into the district championship game.

“It honestly felt amazing,” King said, when asked of her emotions after gliding into second base. “I was just so excited for everybody.”

Of course, not everyone at the little league complex held the same feeling toward King’s go-ahead swing. Harris, a senior, was consoled by teammates and coaches in the first-base dugout after losing the 10-pitch battle. And the Lady Mounties wiped tears from their faces as they walked away from their postgame meeting with Gonder in right field.

Some girls — like McDonald, Adams, Hannah Minnarchick and Roselyn Weaver — will be back for P-O in 2020. But Harris won’t. Neither will Simpson, Maddie Lucas or Kendra Carns. Thursday was the end of an era for the Lady Mountie seniors.

“As freshmen, they were in the final eight. As sophomores, they were in the final four. They won a state championship last year. They won the Mountain League four years in a row. They have three District 6 titles,” Gonder said. “By all my standards, that’s a pretty good high school career. Obviously it didn’t end for the seniors the way they wanted it to end. But when we look back on their careers 10 years from now, I hope that they’re smiling.”

On Thursday, though, the only girls smiling were the Lady Eagles.

The road ahead won’t be easy. BEA has Chestnut Ridge (19-3) to contend with before the state tournament. But after a four-run win over P-O, Lucas’ gals are confident going into the District 5/6 title game.

“We all want it,” Peters said, smiling through tears of joy. “Everybody’s told us that we’re getting lucky this year. We’re not the good ballplayers; we’re the lucky ballplayers. We’re all on the road to prove them wrong.”