It was kind of an abnormal offseason.
Bald Eagle Area softball senior Morgan Nyman remembers an absence in cohesiveness — before longtime Penns Valley coach Don Lucas came to the helm, the Eagles didn’t have a lot of open gyms.
But as the 2016 campaign has progressed, so has BEA’s harmony, and it was on display Monday.
The Eagles utilized a combined effort to methodically bury Bishop McCort 9-2 in the District 6 Class AA quarterfinals.
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The No. 3 seed BEA (14-4) will travel to face No. 2 Central (16-4) in the semifinals on Thursday. The Lady Dragons defeated Marion Center 13-0 in five innings on Monday.
Freshman hurler Zoey Surovec earned the win in her first playoff start. She tossed five innings, allowed one unearned run, and let up only one hit.
Lucas spoke highly of Surovec, and had no issue trusting the freshman.
“Any time you put a young player out there, there’s got to be butterflies,” Lucas said. “But she’s pitching so much older than what she really is.”
Bishop McCort’s Jenna Gaunt was the losing pitcher after letting up five runs in 3 2/3 innings.
The Lady Eagles started slow, but jumped on Gaunt in the third and fourth frames.
BEA opened the scoring in the third as a Sidney Shultz single through the right side scored Dallas Dillon and Brooke Woodward.
Bishop McCort rebounded with a run in the top of the fourth, but BEA didn’t let the good feelings last long.
Madison Ripka reached on an error, Megan Kresovich walked, and a double steal had them on second and third with no outs to start the inning. Next up, Mikala Smith scored Ripka with a bunt single, and Smith advanced to second with no one covering the bag.
Nyman made the Crushers pay for the mental lapse, jolting a two-run double down the left field line.
The Lady Eagles would later polish things off with a four-run sixth inning, highlighted by more smart baserunning.
Lucas thought his team’s awareness on the bags helped tilt the balance.
“Speed kills, and when you can take two bases on a normal hit, that’s a backbreaker,” the coach said. “When a team makes a mistake and you capitalize on it, it just rubs salt in the wound.”
With a sizable lead in hand, BEA was steadied in the circle by Surovec, and later Moreta Dyke. The junior, who surrendered one run on one hit, relieved Surovec for the sixth and seventh innings.
Lucas said it was always the plan to get Dyke in after the fifth inning.
“We have those weapons, and we have to use them,” Lucas said. “If we don’t use them, then we won’t know how it’ll be in those situations where we really do need them.”
That could be the case Thursday.
BEA and Central faced recently, when the Lady Eagles eked out a 7-5 win on May 13 to sweep both regular-season meetings. The victory clinched a share of the Mountain League title with Philipsburg-Osceola.
Shultz shut the Lady Dragons down that day, entering in the fifth inning.
Lucas is unsure of who he’ll have starting against Central, but is confident in the pitching options available.
And after flourishing so far in Lucas’ first season, Nyman said the team’s comfort and unity is helping the Lady Eagles click at the right time.
“We’re getting more comfortable with each other, and it’s really important because we all rely on each other,” the senior said. “We just need to keep our heads on straight and stay focused.”