High School Sports

How a little perseverance helped push BEA softball into the PIAA semifinals

Bald Eagle Area’s Maddie Perry wasn’t happy with herself after she was called out for leaving first base early in the fourth, then had a ball glance off her glove for an error that allowed a Keystone Oaks run in the fifth.

But the freshman shortstop kept her composure, and it paid off — big — in the Lady Eagles’ 4-2 win over Keystone Oaks in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class 3A Softball Championships at St. Francis.

“I definitely knew I was going to have to make up for it,” Perry said. “I’m really hard on myself about that kind of stuff, but I know my teammates will pick me up.”

Leading 3-2 with a pair of outs in the sixth, Perry split the right center gap with a ringing double to score Autumn Tobias and give the Lady Eagles a much-needed insurance run. Pitcher Madison Peters then retired the side in order in the seventh to advance to Monday’s semifinals against Mountain League foe Clearfield.

“Yeah, that was great. It made up for it,” Perry said with a smile. “As soon as Autumn got on, it just picked up the energy for the whole team. It just spreads like a bonfire. When one person hits, everybody hits.”

Despite that scare in the fifth inning, BEA commanded the whole game, scoring early and never surrendering the lead.

With one out in bottom of the first, BEA’s Mara Hockenberry bunted for a single and came around to score on a Peters’ single for a 1-0 lead.

Maegan King followed with a shot straight down the left field line that was originally called foul, but after the third base and home plate umpires conferred, the call was changed to a home run that put the Lady Eagles up 3-0.

“At first, I’m thinking please be fair, but when it was called foul, I thought just come back and hit again,” King said. “I was very happy when they changed it.”

Both coaches said they’ve never seen a foul call reversed to a home run in all the years they’ve been part of the game.

“It went around the pole. It was a home run,” BEA coach Don Lucas said. “I’ve never had that happen before. If they would have said foul ball, I’d have been OK with it, but I’m going to go out there and at least plead my case. The home plate umpire saw the same thing I did.”

Keystone Oaks coach Mark Kaminski didn’t agree.

“Normally, in a high school game you have two umpires. Now, you’ve got four, and they still miss that call,” he said. “Having said that, we had chances. They played good ‘D’ on us. We hit the ball well. We should have scored more runs, and it wouldn’t have mattered.”

After Keystone scored in the fifth to make it a 3-2 game, Peters retired seven straight batters to close out the game. The hard-throwing sophomore threw her only changeup of the game to retire Keystone’s cleanup hitter on a soft pop-up for the second out of the sixth. She then got a strikeout to end the frame.

Peters started the seventh with another strikeout and then followed it up with a pop-out before snagging a comebacker for the final out.

“I wasn’t really getting worried because I knew the defense still had it under control, but it does make you start thinking ‘Oh, my goodness. Better bear down a little bit,’ ” Peters said.

She gave up just one earned run on four hits and struck out five. Keystone got just one hit off her over the final five innings.

The Lady Eagles’ next opponent, Clearfield, took out WPIAL champions Avonworth 2-1 to advance.

BEA beat the Lady Bison twice during the regular season, 17-2 in the season opener at the end of March and 9-0 in mid-April.
The Lady Eagles will be prohibitive favorites to beat Clearfield and move on to the state championship game on June 14, but Lucas and the players are not taking the District 9 champions lightly.

“It’s tough to play a team three times. They’ve really improved since the start of the season. We’re going to have to play a very good game to take the next step,” Lucas said.

Added King: “We’re very excited. We’ve played them before. We know how they are, but we can’t take them for granted.”