BEA softball coach discusses Kaleigh Kinley’s impact
Bald Eagle Area softball’s Kaleigh Kinley stood at second base, hands on her hips, as she gazed at the roaring crowd behind the Lady Eagles’ dugout. Kinley broke Monday’s PIAA matchup open — and everyone at Beard Field knew it.
Kinley’s two-out, three-run double in the third inning — nearly a grand slam — propelled the Lady Eagles to a 6-1 win over South Park in the PIAA Class 3A first round. The Lady Eagles face Keystone Oaks in the PIAA second round on Thursday after WPIAL’s No. 2 seed defeated Girard 8-0 on Monday.
BEA (20-3) ought to feel confident entering Thursday’s matchup. Sophomore starter Madison Peters allowed only one run and five hits in seven innings of work. A pair of freshman infielders — third baseman Autumn Tobias and shortstop Maddie Perry — accounted for eight groundball putouts and no errors. And, of course, its lone senior belted the biggest hit of her career.
“(Kinley) was on the first team I coached,” said BEA coach Don Lucas, who was hired back in Dec. 2015. “She has gotten better and better every year. She’s been a staple on our defense and at the plate, coming up with so many crucial hits.”
None more important than the one in the third inning against South Park.
But first, hitters ahead of Kinley went to work. With one out down in the third, Mara Hockenberry ripped a double into the right-field gap. She later crossed home on a looping single by Maralee Caldana, breaking the scoreless stalemate. Four batters later, freshman Maddie Perry worked a bases-loaded, seven-pitch walk — which included a pair of two-strike foul balls — bringing BEA’s advantage to 2-0.
Then Kinley stepped to the plate. The second baseman noticed South Park starter Julie Shinavski was using a healthy diet of changeups to try and throw off BEA’s hitters. So, the senior sat back, keying in on a fastball. “And that’s what I got,” Kinley said with a smile. Right at the letters.
Kinley connected with Shinavski’s second pitch, and patrons along the first-base line popped out of their seats. The senior’s towering shot appeared to have the distance to clear Beard Field’s 220-foot centerfield wall.
“It was hit hard,” Lucas said, eyes widening. “It kind of hung in the air forever.”
Added catcher Maralee Caldana: “We swore it was going over.”
It didn’t, smacking the padded wall inches beneath the white line and falling to the warning track. But that didn’t stop the Lady Eagles from celebrating. Three runs came across, and, after an RBI single by Madison Eckley closed out the frame, BEA emerged from the third inning with a 6-0 lead — one it wouldn’t come close to surrendering.
Peters, who gave up five runs in BEA’s District 6 title game on Friday, had little issue Monday night.
While, according to Peters, “nerves were going” in the first and second inning, the sophomore settled in with an 11-pitch, one-two-three third. She needed just 43 pitches to get through the final four frames and allowed only four runners to reach scoring position the entire game.
Understandably, Peters was confident after Monday’s win. When asked about how the 6-1 victory would help on Thursday, she quipped, “I can’t wait until next Friday.” That’s the date of the PIAA championship. “I’m on a mission,” Peters said with a smile.
As are the rest of the Lady Eagles. That includes Kinley, Monday night’s pivotal player.
“It’s good vibes. We’re excited to get back out on the field Thursday,” the senior said. “We’re ready.”