The softball fistfight between Centre County rivals State College and Bald Eagle Area ended not on a technical knockout but on a technicality.
The Lady Little Lions went into the bottom of the eighth inning clinging to a 7-6 lead. But as they had done twice earlier in the game, the Lady Eagles fought back to tie the score. Or so they thought.
But after a conference between the umpires it was ruled that Morgan Peters, who had just singled in what would have been the tying run, had re-entered the game without being announced. She was called out for the final out of the game, the run was erased and State College left with a 7-6 win in a game that was nothing if not a testament to the grit and resilience of the athletes on both teams.
“This is not how you like to win games,” said State College coach Mike Harper. “They didn’t sub her (Peters) back in. It’s a rule and you have to take advantage of the rules that are given to you. But it doesn’t take away from the game they played.”
BEA coach Don Lucas was adamant that he had announced Peters was re-entering.
“I don’t know what else I could have done,” he said. “I told them (umpires) I was re-entering the designated player. It’s just too bad. I feel as though victory was stolen from us. But we have no excuses. I’d just rather see the game won on the field.
“But I couldn’t be prouder of these girls. This was just like a fight and it was a matter of seeing who got up after the last knockdown.”
The teams traded scoring punches over the last half of the game as BEA went up 2-0 in the fourth, State College went ahead 4-2 in the top of the fifth, only to have BEA tie it at 5-5 in the bottom of the inning. State College took a 6-5 lead in the seventh, and BEA tied it at 6 in the bottom of the inning.
“We’ve played a lot of tough, one-run games this year,” Harper said. “Our girls are very resilient and they support each other. We made things happen today when we had to. But it’s always a good game when we play Bald Eagle. They have a lot of pride in their program. I told the girls coming over here that they would be ready to play us.
“This is Centre County softball. State College hadn’t played any Centre County teams for a while. We want to play them. We don’t have a lot of natural rivalries in our (Mid-Penn) league. But if you need any further proof that we should be playing these teams, you just witnessed it.”
After dodging a bases-loaded bullet in the first inning, BEA broke through against Hannah Shields for a pair of runs in the fourth when Morgan Nyman doubled to the fence in left field and moved to third on a single by Dallis Dillon. A two-base error on Olivia Andrews’ grounder to first scored both runners.
In the top of the fifth State College grabbed the lead on a single by Emily Lieb, a hit batter, an RBI-fielder’s choice by Shields, two errors and a sacrifice fly by Andrea Kling.
But in the bottom of the inning BEA put up three runs to tie the score on a double by Brooke Woodward, a fielder’s choice, a two-run double by Peters and a sacrifice fly to left by Nyman.
State College retook the lead in the sixth on a fielder’s choice by Lieb, and an RBI single by Abby Allen, only to have BEA forge a tie in the bottom of the seventh when Morgan McCloskey drew a walk. Megan Kresovich, pinch-running for McCloskey, stole second and scored on Dillon’s double to left that fell just in front of Jennie Ewton.
Allen, who had a three-hit day along with Kayla Hawbaker, started the game-winning rally in the eighth with a two-out single and scored on a line-drive double to right-center by Shedlock.
“She (Shedlock) has been struggling in certain pitch situations,” Harper said. “A hit like that might be what it takes to get her going. She has been clutch in the past and she was clutch today.”
For her part, Shedlock knew what to expect from BEA, having grown up in Philipsburg and playing against the Lady Eagles before moving to State College.
“We discussed them on the bus ride over here,” she said. “I’ve played on this field a couple of times. I knew they would fight hard. It’s nice to come here and play a solid team, to win a battle.
“When I went up to bat (in the eighth) I was just looking for a hit. I’ve been in a slump and I knew that I had strong hitters behind me. I knew if I could get a hit my job would be done.”
For Lucas it was the kind of game that lent itself to replaying situations over and over.
“We had opportunities,” he said. “A clutch hit or a clutch play here or there would have made the difference.
“But games like this only makes you stronger. You put young kids up there in situations and ask them to do what grown men can’t do in the major leagues. At the end of the day this will make us tougher when we get to the end of the season and play tough competition in the playoffs.”