Many of Bald Eagle Area’s players started their careers together in Little League and played alongside each other through Teener League.
Now, they’re fueling the Eagles’ longest postseason run in five years. Second-seeded Bald Eagle Area will make their first trip to the District 6 Class AA championship game since 2009 on Tuesday when it faces undefeated and top-seeded Central at 7 p.m. at Blair County Ballpark in Altoona.
“We’re finishing up the last chapter of our baseball careers together,” Ryan Dyke said after BEA’s dramatic 6-5 win over Bellwood-Antis in the semifinals. “So no better way to do it than to go out and capture a district title and then move on through states.”
The Eagles last won the district title in 2009, beating Mount Union 6-1. It was the last of four straight championship game appearances by BEA. Bald Eagle Area (14-6) has also clinched a berth in the PIAA tournament.
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The veteran group leading the Eagles has been together since their Little League days and won a state title in Teener League. BEA coach Jim Gardner felt this team had the talent to return to the district championship and state tournament.
“They’ve been a nice ball club all along,” Gardner said. “There’s a very, very strong team aspect within the group here, and that means a lot. A lot of camaraderie, they’re positive with each other and encouraging with each other, and it takes all that kind of stuff to win and advance on. These kids have that right now.”
The Eagles were down to their final out against Bellwood-Antis in the semifinals, but they pulled out the victory on Bryan Greene’s two-run, walk-off double.
Bald Eagle Area will now face a Central team that has outscored its opponents 235-52 en route to a 20-0 record. The Dragons advanced to the district final with a 12-2 win over Forest Hills.
Central beat the Eagles 20-10 and 11-6 in their two regular-season matchups. The Dragons have eight players who have made at least 50 plate appearances hitting above .300, including six hitting above .400. Austin Cunningham leads the way with a .526 batting average.
Mike Mock is the Dragons’ ace with an 8-0 record and .47 ERA. Mock has allowed nine runs, including three earned runs, in 45 innings. Ethan Lewis is 9-0 with a 3.09 ERA in 43 innings.
The Eagles saw both pitchers in their most recent meeting, a loss in late April at Doc Etters Field. They scored the first two runs allowed by Mock this season that day.
“We know they beat us two games earlier in the season,” BEA’s Bryan Greene said. “But it’s tough to beat a team three times.”
Bald Eagle Area’s run to the championship has been sweet after a disappointing finish last year.
Jordan Kobularcik described the Eagles’ season-ending loss to Mount Union in the quarterfinals as bitter. BEA was also the No. 2 seed in 2013, but ran into a tough matchup on the mound and fell 3-0.
This year, Bald Eagle Area is looking forward to playing for the championship.
“It feels great,” said Dyke, who is hitting .500. “Especially since last year, we felt like we had a team that was capable of doing what we’re doing this year, it definitely feels good to get there and have a shot at a district title.”
Dyke and his teammates are now focused on knocking off Central.
They’ve become close throughout high school, and they’re hoping to add a district title to their last chapter together.
“This group has played a lot of good ball together,” Gardner said. “They did real well in Teener League. I’ve been around a lot of them since Little League on up through. It’s a very close group that just plays well together. They mesh well together. They just have a lot of fun.”
Follow Ryne Gery on Twitter @rgery