Lady Eagles celebrate district title
Five years ago, Don Lucas — then Penns Valley softball’s head coach — watched a 10-year-old pitcher dice up his Lady Rams youth team. Lucas, now Bald Eagle Area’s manager, looked to an assistant coach at the time and offered four words: “That kid can throw.”
“We couldn’t catch up to her,” Lucas recalled. “I was thinking, ‘It’d be great to be able to coach her some day.’ And here it is.”
That kid, of course, was Madison Peters, BEA’s sophomore ace who not only guided Lucas and the Lady Eagles to the PIAA playoffs, but is poised to take the district champions on a run in the state tournament.
After hoisting the District 5/6 Class 3A trophy, defeating Chestnut Ridge at St. Francis University, Peters and her teammates face South Park in the PIAA first round on Monday at Penn State’s Beard Field. BEA (19-3) ought to have an advantage, playing so close to home against the WPIAL’s No. 3 squad (15-5). And then there’s the benefit of having Peters in the circle.
“Anybody that’s been in this game any amount of time at all knows that if you don’t have someone in the circle, you’re not going to do well,” Lucas added. “I don’t care how great of a defense you have. You need someone that can come in and get the outs that you need. She has that.”
Peters has the numbers to prove it, too. Not that the pitcher would know it. Peters said she doesn’t keep her own stats. “I just come out and play for the team,” she added. “Do what I can for the team.”
Well, she’s doing a lot. The sophomore boasts a 1.61 ERA in 125 innings of work this season. Only 29 of her 48 runs allowed have been earned. And she’s walked only 19 of 501 batters faced (3.8 percent).
The Lady Eagle hasn’t been shabby at the plate, either. Peters, BEA’s No. 4 hitter, has a .274 average and five home runs. But it’s the sophomore’s work in the circle that has impressed Lucas and his staff — which includes Peters’ older sister, Morgan.
Morgan Peters, a senior starter for BEA when it made the state tournament in 2016, has witnessed her sister put in the necessary work to reach this point. On top of lessons every Saturday morning in Philipsburg, the younger Peters practices her craft in the family basement. When she was in Little League and junior high, she’d hang a blanket on the basement clothesline and pitch into it.
“She throws a little too hard for that now,” Morgan Peters said with a laugh. Now, the older sister has to catch at home for the sophomore. But she doesn’t mind. “Everything she does, she does for this team,” the assistant coach added. “She works really hard, and she deserves everything she’s got to this point.”
There’s more for Peters on the horizon, too. After a 12-1 freshman campaign and a stellar sophomore season, the pitcher figures to be BEA’s ace for the next two years.
Now, as Lucas pointed out, Peters is “still learning the game.” It was only a year ago that Peters was an anxious freshman pushing to make an impact. “Your nerves get the best of you when you’re 14 or 15 years old, out on the mound for varsity ball,” Madison Peters said.
But she grew from that experience, and Lucas believes she will continue to improve until her time at BEA is up. When it is, the coach said Peters has the “temperament, will power and discipline” to play in college. “As you can tell, I’m high on her,” Lucas added. And he has reason to be.
BEA captured its first district title since 2014 thanks to more than just Peters. The senior leadership of Kaleigh Kinley has been invaluable; Makena Baney, Maegan King and Maralee Caldana have plated plenty of runs, and freshman shortstop Madison Perry has set a defensive tone in the infield.
But Peters’ pitching has been the heartbeat of BEA’s push to the PIAA playoffs — and it will continue to be if the Lady Eagles make a run.
“It’s huge having someone that can keep you in games, that can pitch to the next level,” Lucas said. “Lord knows how far we’ll go. ... But that’s important.”