Bellefonte softball coach discusses season after loss in PIAAs
Bellefonte’s players slowly walked off the field Monday afternoon, many wiping tears from their red eyes after the final game of their season.
There was no consoling the Lady Red Raiders in the immediate aftermath of their 9-4 loss to Mount Pleasant in the first round of the PIAA Class 4A Softball Championships. It didn’t matter to them that their opponent was ranked No. 13 nationally by MaxPreps, or that it was batting .350 as a team or boasted a 0.75 ERA as a pitching staff.
Bellefonte just knew it arrived at the end. And it wasn’t prepared for an early exit, no matter the strength of the opponent.
“We have high expectations,” Raiders coach Travis Foster said, his eyes also red after addressing the team. “We hold ourselves to a very high standard and losing sucks — especially when we come out and think, gosh, we didn’t have our best.”
Mount Pleasant entered the game at Penn State’s Beard Field with a 17-1 record, its only loss coming in a district title game in which it faced another team on a 15-game winning streak. It reached the state semifinals last season and won the state title the year before. But Bellefonte didn’t make it any easier on itself Monday.
The Lady Red Raiders committed four errors and made at least three other defensive hiccups in which the question was asked, “Was that an error, too?”
“I think it was a part of nerves,” senior shortstop Emma DeHaas said. “We didn’t want to go home; you lose and you’re done. But I think it just got in our heads. Once one happened, another did — and we had to get it out of our heads before we made another play.”
Mount Pleasant took an early 2-0 lead, but Bellefonte’s struggles came to a head in the top of the fourth. With two outs and no girls on base, Mount Pleasant’s leadoff hitter safely reached first after a soft liner deflected off an infielder’s glove for an error. The next batter, Katie Hutter, singled. And one of the game’s crucial plays happened right after.
Mount Pleasant singled to left, driving in a run, and then Bellefonte threw an errant ball to second base — which traveled into the outfield and beneath the outfielder’s glove for the second error on the play. Bellefonte trailed 4-0 at that point and, against a national powerhouse like Mount Pleasant, the odds at a comeback seemed like a longshot.
But the Lady Red Raiders didn’t give up.
“We want to win,” DeHaas added. “We don’t care what the score is. We always try to come back and win and fight. That’s who we are.”
The late effort was evident right away. In the next frame, the top of the fifth, Bellefonte pitcher Lexi Rogers made a diving play near foul territory and popped up with both a smile and the ball. Bellefonte had three hits in the first four innings — and eight hits in the final three. And, in the sixth, left fielder Sara DeHaas made a rare play that would feel home on SportsCenter.
Sara DeHaas sprinted into foul territory and dove headfirst at full speed, laying out for the ball, catching it and literally tumbling head over heels. She somehow held on for the out.
“The catch the left fielder made was one of the best catches I’ve ever seen in my life,” Mount Pleasant coach Chris Brunson said. “We’ve been doing this a long time, and that was unbelievable.”
Added Foster: “That was the play of the year, honestly.”
In the end, Bellefonte’s effort still wasn’t enough. Sara DeHass finished with three hits, while three others — Lily Gardner, Hanna Lauck and Emma DeHaas — recorded two apiece. But Mount Pleasant always responded whenever Bellefonte started to gain momentum.
When the Lady Raiders scored two in the bottom of the fifth, to cut the deficit to 5-2, Mount Pleasant tacked on four more insurance runs in the top of the sixth. “Made my heart rate go down just a tad,” Brunson said.
After the final out, in the losing dugout, Foster tried to remind his squad what they accomplished this season. They were district champs, overcoming numerous injuries and an 0-5 start to reach the state tournament. And they never raised a white flag Monday, battling and clawing and scratching back against one of the nation’s best.
Emma DeHaas — a senior with two senior teammates in Lissi Przybys and Emily Pugh — apologized to reporters ahead of time if she started to tear up. But the emotional shortstop offered some perspective that should replace her team’s red eyes once the sting of Monday’s loss wears off.
“The stuff you remember isn’t the losses or the wins,” she said, with a slight smile forming. “It’s what you do on the field — how Sara dove and caught a ball, I’m going to remember forever. And Hanna tripped over her feet at Penns Valley, that was hilarious.
“This was a great season.”