High School Sports

High school softball: Bald Eagle Area regains focus to win finale against Bellefonte

After Bellefonte had taken a 2-0 lead in the first inning, thanks to Erica DeVinney’s two-run homer to left-center field, Bald Eagle Area coach Kayleen Sidisky took pitcher Megan Dudish aside and laid it on the line.

“I told her she had to shut them down,” Sidisky recalled. “I told her, ‘It’s got to be you until we regain our confidence.’ After that first home run happened, we came in and were like, ‘Oh no, they hit a home run so we have to hit a home run.’ Once we regained our focus, we were fine.”

Fine as in a 6-3 winner in their regular-season finale. Now, they have to wait to see where the seeds fall for the District 6 Class AA playoffs, which begin next week.

Fine because Dudish recovered from a rocky start, in which she also gave up a solo homer to Vanessa Cooper in the third inning and then allowed only one other runner to reach base. She finished with a five-hit, 11-strikeout performance, retiring 15 of the last 16 batters she faced.

Fine thanks to a five-run explosion in the fifth inning that chased Bellefonte starter Rachel Bernier from the game.

“I was frustrated those first three innings,” Dudish admitted. “But then we started not making errors and we started to get hits. It was nice to get a couple of runs in case I do throw one of those meat pitches. That’s when bombs get hit.’”

Bellefonte struck first, when Cooper doubled down the right field line to start the game, but was thrown out trying to take third on Jessica McClenahan’s bunt single. DeVinney followed with a shot that easily cleared the fence in left-center.

Cooper added to the Bellefonte lead with a solo shot to deep right-center in the top of the third to make it 3-0, before BEA scratched out a run on Ally Simpson’s single with one out in the third, a sacrifice bunt by Mallory Bennett and an error in the outfield on Hallie Giedroc’s fly ball.

Giedroc was stranded at second, a pattern of the Eagles early in the game, as they left two runners on in the second and a runner at third in the fourth.

But in the fifth the hits began to fall, along with some sporadic rain drops, as the Eagles took command of the game. Megan Peters opened the inning with a single and Simpson doubled into the right-center gap to score Peters. RBI-singles by Logan Fischer, Marisa Tobias and Dudish plus an error accounted for the five runs in the rally.

“Ally’s been hot the last couple of games,” Sidisky said of Simpson. “Once she got that first hit, the confidence of the others seemed to follow. Our downfall this year has been when no one has hit.”

The Lady Eagles rocked Bernier and reliever Sarah Menna for 10 hits, seven of them after the third inning.

“They have a bunch of nice hitters and it’s a credit to them, they put the ball where we couldn’t get to it,” said Raider coach Greg Kohlhepp. “That’s a tough lineup from top to bottom. And once they got their offense going, we couldn’t come up with a clutch play to help us get out of it.

“And you have to give credit to Dudish. She threw a great game. She controlled our hitters and took us out of the game.”

Bellefonte will enter the Class AAA playoffs after it completes its schedule next week. Kohlhepp said Thursday’s game was good preparation for the postseason.

“We treated this like a playoff game,” he said. “Games like this one, the one against Penns Valley, give us a chance to test ourselves. This is a great atmosphere here. It’s fun to play in games like this. This is the way the playoffs will be. But there’s nothing like a BEA-Bellefonte game.”