Bald Eagle Area coach Curt Heverly called it about two weeks ago.
Moments after his team had knocked off Philipsburg-Osceola 4-3 to win the Mountain League title, Heverly was asked about the coming District 6 Class AA Tournament.
“The two best horses may be right here,” he said.
Heverly’s initial thoughts have proven prophetic as his fourth-seeded Lady Eagles (18-4) and the second-seeded Lady Mounties (19-4) will battle for the district title at 7:30 p.m. at Nittany Lion Softball Park.
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The two teams will meet in the title game for the first time since 2010. That season started a run of four straight district crowns for the Lady Mounties, who captured their second PIAA crown in 2011.
Like Heverly, P-O coach Jim Gonder isn’t surprised to see BEA for the third time this season.
“Curt has done a great job with them and their kids are well prepared,” said Gonder. “They have good pitching, solid defense. They’ve got the ingredients to be a team that’s going to be a district finalist. It wasn’t a surprise to us as well.”
Heverly, who last coached BEA to a District crown in 2003, is excited to get a shot at dethroning the Lady Mounties.
“You want to talk about a game, now there’s a game coming up,” said Heverly, whose team knocked off top-seeded and unbeaten Penn Cambria 5-1 in the semifinals. “I have the ultimate respect for P-O and Jimmy, and what he has done. But, I want his title, though.”
P-O hasn’t shown it’s about to give up anything. The Lady Mounties have breezed through the postseason, outscoring their playoff opponents 29-1. They rolled over Blairsville 10-0 in the semifinals.
“I think some things have gone our way that have made it look a little easier than it was,” said Gonder. “We’ve made some of our own breaks, but we’ve also got some breaks. … I guess good teams take advantage of the opportunities they’ve been given.”
The Lady Eagles have had a little tougher time. They needed two runs in the bottom of the seventh and a run in the eighth to be beat Bellwood-Antis 7-6 in the quarterfinals.
“We want this so bad and we all think we can do it,” said shortstop Haley Giedroc, who belted a three-run homer against Penn Cambria.
If the first two games are any indication, the final should be close. P-O knocked off BEA 3-2 before the Lady Eagles won by one in the second matchup.
One of the reasons the teams have been so close is the pitching. P-O’s Chelsey Henry (10-1) and BEA’s Makennah Dyke (12-3) have similar approaches. Neither is overpowering, but both have great control.
“I think they both obviously have a lot of talent and are able to keep the ball low,” Gonder said. “You get a lot of ground balls with these pitchers.”
So what is the key to winning this rubber match?
“You have to keep a couple of their key hitters in tow,” Heverly said. “They crush the ball. … They’re pitching is good but we should be able to make contact. We need to get our game going and take that extra base.”
“They key is to stay up, be confident and no errors,” Giedroc added. “We have great pitching and great defense. We need to hit the ball.”
Gonder said the key is “scoring one more run than they do. It could come down to another one-run game. There are two pretty evenly matched teams. From my perspective, I always hope it’s an error-free game. I hope the kids decide the game with a base hit or strikeout.”
The two schools have played in some memorable title games over the years and this one could add to the total.
“We’re even right now,” Dyke said. “They beat us first and we beat them the last time. It’s going to be a tough game and nobody knows how that is going to turn out.”