Lady Bison, ML Co-Champ Lady Eagles Tangling for Third Time in State Semifinal

HYDE — Now in uncharted territory, the Clearfield Area High School softball team will have to find the winning formula against Mountain League nemesis Bald Eagle Area Monday in order to continue the magic carpet ride through the 2019 postseason.

The stakes couldn’t be any higher for their third meeting this year, a 5 p.m. start at the Ray and Louise Walker Athletic Complex on the Mount Aloysius College campus near Cresson.

On the line will be a trip to the PIAA Class AAA championship game Friday at Beard Field in Penn State’s Nittany Lion Softball Park.

Since Clearfield joined the Mountain League in 2001, Bald Eagle Area has been dominant, winning 15 of 16 games, including 17-2 and 9-0 this spring en route to gaining a share of the title with rival Philipsburg-Osceola.

Those are the only two games in which the young Lady Bison were not a good inning away from victory going into their final at-bats.

The District 6 champion Lady Eagles scored nine unearned runs in the seventh inning of the season-opening victory at the Bison Sports Complex March 26. Madison Peters pitched a one-hitter with eight strikeouts, and also hit one of their four home runs and drove in three runs. Freshman Emma Hipps homered in her first at-bat for the Lady Bison runs.

“We had six freshmen starters and one other player getting her first-ever varsity time,” Clearfield coach Derek Danver noted. “The second time we played them, we kind of beat ourselves. They put the ball in play but it was 0-0 going into the third inning. Then, we had some misplays, and it got out of hand.”

The District 9 champion Lady Bison, who finished 6-7 in the very tough Mountain League, did solve Peters for seven hits, two each by Hipps and Lauren Bressler, but the Lady Eagle sophomore did not walk a batter and had nine strikeouts in the shutout.

According to statistics published in the Centre Daily Times, Peters has a 1.56 earned run average and 148 strikeouts with only 23 walks in 139 innings. The two-time All-ML First Team hurler owns a 29-4 career record.

“Obviously, she’s a good pitcher,” Danver said. “I just trust our bats are much better than they were in the beginning of the year. They’re starting to come on stronger throughout the order. I’m confident we can put some runs on the board against her.”

Just like the Lady Bison, the Lady Eagles (21-3) have only one senior starter in second baseman Kaleigh Kinley, whose three-run double highlighted a third-inning rally that produced all the runs in a 6-1 win over South Park in the first round of the state tourney.

Peters pitched a five-hitter against the District 7 (WPIAL) third-place finisher and followed up with a four-hitter against District 7 runner-up Keystone Oaks Friday when the big hit was a controversial two-run home run by sophomore catcher Maegan King. The fly ball down the left field line first was called a foul ball but, after a discussion between umpires, was ruled fair, giving the Lady Eagles a 3-0 lead and all the momentum in the first inning. They went on to win 4-2.

King also homered and drove in three runs when BEA eliminated defending state champion P-0 8-4 in the District 6 semifinals before upending No. 1 seed Chestnut Ridge 9-5 for the title.

Peters (5), Kinley (4), King (3) and junior Maralee Caldana (3), who shares the catching role, provide the power for the Lady Eagles, whose only losses were 5-4 to P-O, 2-0 to Tyrone and 1-0 to Bellefonte.

Two sophomores at the top of the order have been very instrumental in an offense that has scored six or more runs in 16 games.

Left fielder Makena Baney, the leadoff batter, is hitting .324, has scored 24 runs and stolen 12 bases, while center fielder Mara Hockenberry tops the Lady Eagles in average at .440, runs with 26 and steals with 22.

Two freshmen are on the left side of the infield, Maddie Perry at shortstop and Autumn Tobias at third.

Other probable starters are junior Lauren Fisher at first base and sophomore Maddie Eckley in right field. Freshman Marina Shawley was the designated player in the first game against the Lady Bison and drove in four runs, three on her only home run. Junior Madison Fisher was the DP in the second game.

“Top to bottom, they’ve been pretty solid all four times we’ve played them since I’ve been the coach,” Danver said. “I told the girls they need to believe in themselves.

“We’re a completely different team than the last time we played them. Before the Brookville game, I told them it was the start of a new season and not to even think about all those other games.”

Since sitting at 6-7 heading into May, the Lady Bison are 8-2 with wins over Brookville 14-0 and No. 1 seed Karns City 5-1 in the District 9 Playoffs and 4-3 over Chestnut Ridge and 2-1 over District 7 champion Avonworth for their first appearance in the PIAA Final Four.

Hipps (13-8) has allowed six earned runs during that stretch for a 0.74 ERA that lowered her season number to 1.71 for 143 innings. She has piled up 228 strikeouts with only 36 walks.

In addition to Hipps (.427, 18 RBIs) in the circle, Danver will send out Olivia Bender (.360, 17 RBIs) behind the plate, Lauren Ressler (.347, 15 RBIs) at first base, Kylee Hertlein at second base, Kyra Mollura (.237, 11 RBIs) at shortstop, Casey English at third base, Morgan Cheek (.214) in left field, lone senior Karly Rumsky (.284) in center field and Alexis Benton (.206) in right field.

The Lady Bison have gained confidence with every win in the playoffs and are performing at a level that exceeds what normally would be expected from a lineup that has five freshmen and one sophomore.

“We just have to keep playing our game and not worry about who our opponent is,” Danver said “They’re all good at this point.”

The other semifinal pits District 11 champ Pine Grove (26-0) against District 4 titlist Bloomsburg (17-8).

Fans are reminded that the Clearfield-BEA game will be preceded by a Class AAAAA semifinal between Penn Trafford and Donegal starting at 2:30.

Lady Bison Scoreboard:

Date Opponent Score Record
3/26 BALD EAGLE AREA 2 – 17 0 – 1
3/29 HUNTINGDON ppd. 0 – 1
4/01 @ Philipsburg-Osceola ppd. 0 – 1
4/02 CURWENSVILLE 9 – 1 1 – 1
4/04 TYRONE 7 – 5 2 – 1
4/06 @ Philipsburg-Osceola 1 – 3 2 – 2
4/09 @ Penns Valley 3 – 4 2 – 3
4/10 HUNTINGDON 11 – 1 3 – 3
4/11 BRADFORD 15 – 3 4 – 3
4/12 CENTRAL ppd. 4 – 3
4/15 @ Bellefonte ppd. 4 – 3
4/16 CENTRAL 4 – 1 5 – 3
4/18 @ Bald Eagle Area 0 – 9 5 – 4
4/22 @ Glendale 2 – 6, 9 inn. 5 – 5
4/23 @ Huntingdon 9 – 4 6 – 5
4/26 PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA ppd. 6 – 5
4/29 @ Tyrone 0 – 1 6 – 6
4/30 PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA 1 – 4 6 – 7
5/02 PENNS VALLEY 4 – 1 7 – 7
5/06 @ Bellefonte 7 – 1 8 – 7
5/07 @ Central 2 – 6 8 – 8
5/08 HOLLIDAYSBURG 10 – 1 9 – 8
5/10 BELLEFONTE cancelled 9 – 8
5/13 @ Punxsutawney ppd. 9 – 8
5/14 @ Punxsutawney ppd. 9 – 8
5/15 @ Altoona 9 – 4 10 – 8
5/17 @ Punxsutawney 0 – 1, 8 inn. 10 – 9
5/22 District 9 AAA Playoffs
5/22 BROOKVILLE 12 – 0 11 – 9
5/29 vs. Karns City 5 – 1 12 – 9
6/03 PIAA Tourney
6/03 vs. Chestnut Ridge 4 – 3 13 – 9
6/06 vs. Avonworth 2 – 1 14 – 9
6/10 vs. BEA

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