Bellefonte coach Fred Caldwell and his Lady Raiders waited nearly a year for this.
After losing to Bald Eagle Area, 6-5 in 10 innings on the international tie-breaker on May 8, 2015, on the same field, the Lady Raiders finally purged themselves of the memories of that game by beating the Lady Eagles 6-5 in nine innings Tuesday in a game that was eerily similar to the one a year ago.
In that one, BEA rallied from a 3-1 deficit to score twice on the tie-breaker for a 6-5 win.
Tuesday it was the Lady Raiders who were looking up a a 5-1 deficit only to reel in the Lady Eagles with a 4-run rally in the fourth and score the game-winner in the top of the ninth inning.
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“When we got behind 3-0 we knew we were going to have to hang in and fight hard,” Caldwell said. “The pressure was on all of the time. Don (Lucas, BEA coach) and I were talking before the game and we said this was going to be a good game, that we would challenge each other. This was a huge game for us. We knew Bald Eagle would be a quality opponent and it was critical for us to rebound from our first loss.”
The Lady Raiders had rolled through their first six games without allowing a run before Central beat them 2-0 last week. Those were the only two runs they had allowed to that point.
BEA topped that number in the first inning as Morgan Nyman and Dallis Dillon opened the inning with singles, Olivia Andrews walked and Sidney Shultz cleared the bases with a triple to the fence in right center. But Bellefonte’s Tara Baney bore down and got out of the inning with a strikeout, a fielder’s choice and a fly to right.
A triple by Samantha Gates and a single by Taylore Maurer got a run back for Bellefonte in the second but in the third BEA tacked on a pair of runs on singles by Andrews, Madison Ripka and Morgan Peters to take a 5-1 lead.
Bellefonte wiped out that margin with four runs in the fourth as BEA starter Zoe Surovec hit two batters, walked two, her defense committed two errors behind her and Rianna Trexler had the only hit in the rally.
“We booted the ball around,” said Lucas. “But that’s high school softball. You make some plays and you don’t make some. We made some great catches in the outfield and there were a couple we didn’t make. But this was a great game for high school girls. And we’ll be back. I’m not worried about that. There’s no time to sit around and pout about this.”
Lucas changed pitchers after five innings, replacing starter Surovec with Shultz.
“We felt we needed to show them something different,” Lucas said. “And Sid did a great job. She got a lot of ground balls, some we fielded, some we didn’t.”
Both teams had numerous scoring opportunities late in the game as BEA stranded runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings while Bellefonte left runners at third in both the seventh and eight innings.
In the ninth, the Lady Raiders finally got the lead. Gates got aboard with a lead-off double to left but was erased on a fielder’s choice at third. Maurer reached on an error, BEA’s fifth of the game, moved up on a fielder’s choice and scored when Alexis Wetzler roped a single just inside the left field line to score Mauer with the game winner.
“Lex has been very consistent in the clutch for us,” Caldwell said. “She is one of our clutch players. We also got some contributions from some others who don’t make as many contributions. Taylore Mauer made a great play, throwing that runner out at the plate in the fourth inning, and Sam Gates made a solid contribution. She has a lot of potential and this is the first game she’s put it all together.”
Baney worked the whole game for Bellefonte, striking out 11 while allowing 10 hits.
“We had another girl warming up,” Caldwell said, “But (assistant coach) Laura (Caldwell) said she didn’t think Tara had lost anything in the late innings, that she was throwing as hard as she had at the beginning of the game, so we let her go.”
It turned out to be a prudent decision as Baney struck out Ripka for the final out, finally exorcising the ghost of last year’s loss.