Bald Eagle Area softball player Olivia Andrews probably doesn’t have any idea who Yogi Berra is, but she and her teammates were channeling the New York Yankee great when things looked bleak Monday.
Taking a 4-3 lead into the seventh, BEA had just given up three runs to Bellwood-Antis and were down to three outs.
Were the Lady Eagles thinking their season was almost done?
“No,” Andrews said emphatically. “It’s not over until it’s over.”
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And it wasn’t.
Bald Eagle Area scored twice to tie the game in the seventh and Andrews’ RBI single an inning later drove in Mikayla Smith with the game-winner as the Lady Eagles pulled out a wild 7-6 District 6 Class AA playoff quarterfinal triumph at Milesburg Little League Field.
BEA (17-4) advances to Thursday’s semifinals and will travel to unbeaten and top-seeded Penn Cambria (19-0), which thumped Westmont Hilltop 10-0 in five innings on Monday.
“We just don’t quit,” said BEA coach Curt Heverly, whose team rallied from a pair of two-run deficits in the contest.
It was Bellwood-Antis (18-3-1) that pulled off the first rally, taking advantage of two BEA errors and a clutch hit from its only senior.
After the leadoff hitter reached on an error to start the seventh, Erin Nagle unloaded on a 1-2 pitch from Makennah Dyke and crushed a no-doubt blast deep over the right-field fence to give the Lady Blue Devils a 5-4 lead. Another error led to a run before Dyke stranded two runners with a strikeout.
After the Bellwood rally, Heverly got a chuckle from his team by telling them it was the fifth inning while the scoreboard plainly displayed a big 7.
“He was trying to tell us it was the wrong inning,” Makenzie Proctor said.
There was method to the madness.
“I refused to look at it as the seventh,” Heverly said. “I said it was the fifth because I didn’t want them to think we were going there.”
Pinch-hitter Morgan Peters led off with a walk and catcher Morgan Nyman hit into a fielder’s choice. Haley Giedroc followed with a bullet RBI double down the third-base line as courtesy runner Moreta Dyke hustled all of the way around from first to score to make it 6-5. Giedroc took third on the throw home.
Makennah Dyke followed with a soft fly ball to shallow — very shallow — left field and Heverly elected to send his fastest runner on the catch. Giedroc beat Saige McElwain’s throw, which was a little left of the plate, to tie the score.
“No one is going to throw Haley Giedroc out on a fly ball to left field,” Heverly said. “They’re just not going to do it.”
Makennah Dyke (11-3) seemed buoyed from rally as she fanned two of Bellwood’s batters in the eighth, including Nagle, who entered the contest with a gaudy .611 batting average.
“I went out and said, ‘What do you think,’” Heverly said of a meeting in the circle before Nagle’s at-bat. “Makennah said, ‘I think I can get her on a certain couple of pitches.’ Look at that. That’s tough leadership.”
The Lady Eagles wouldn’t need to get another out.
With one out in the eighth, Smith walked and took second on a wild pitch. Freshman Andrews then delivered the game-winner, grounding a a single to center and Smith easily beat a strong throw home by Nagle.
“I just knew I had to do it for my team and it happened,” Andrews said. “I was in like a little slump there and I pulled through and made up for it all.”
“We had a talk today and I said, ‘It’s time to grow up, honey. ... You’ve got to step up like a senior sometime,’” Heverly said of Andrews. “I had confidence in her and she did a great job.”
The comeback was devastating for Bellwood, in just its second season after moving up from Class A.
“When you play good teams, that’s what you get,” said Lady Blue Devil coach Jim Payne. “Bald Eagle, they knew 60 feet at a time and never lost their poise. They came out and showed why Bald Eagle is a tradition and not just a program. They upheld their standard today.”
Heverly had nothing but kind words for Payne’s club.
“They’ve got a good ball team,” Heverly said. “I was really impressed. They hit the ball hard. We had to work for everything.”
Thanks to a Jaqueline Finn’s RBI single, a long home run to left-center by Caroline Showalter and a RBI single by Taylor Schildt, the Lady Blue Devils led 3-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth.
Schildt (9-3) had retired 10 straight batters before Logan Fischer drew a one-out walk. Smith fouled off four two-strike pitches before cracking a single to left. With two outs and runners at second and third, Proctor smacked a two-run single to center field to tie the game.
“I was just looking to make connection with the ball,” the junior said. “I knew it was clutch and I needed to get that hit.”
“At the beginning of the season we were wondering what to do with her,” Heverly said of Proctor, who bats as the Lady Eagles’ designated player. “She couldn’t hit in the cage and she couldn’t hit out here. We worked with her and all of a sudden we got her going and she’s been a stud in there for us.”
After Heverly implored her to shorten her stroke and “hit it somewhere,” Makennah Dyke’s RBI single drove home Moreta Dyke from third to make it 4-3 after five innings.
That was how it stayed until the late heroics from both teams.
“We like to wait, instead of starting off early,” said Smith of her team’s penchant for rallies. “We always make it back. We make it harder than it should be.”
“We always wait to the second half of the game to play the game,” added Proctor. “We have so much faith in our team that we know that we can pull through every time.”
Giedroc had two of BEA’s seven hits and played an excellent game at shortstop with a diving catch and no mishandles. Marissa Tobias added a first-inning sacrifice fly.
Nagle, Edyn Convery and Schildt each had two of Bellwood’s nine hits.
BEA is now one win away from making the PIAA Tournament for the first time since winning the title in 2009.
“We haven’t been this far in the districts in a long time,” Smith said. “It’s great to finally be in the semifinals.”