Bald Eagle Area punches ticket to PIAA semis with 4-2 win

(TIM WEIGHT/FOR THE EXPRESS) Bald Eagle Area’s Maegan King is swarmed by teammates at home plate after she cracked a three-run home run in Thursday’s quarterfinal softball game versus Keystone Oaks. BEA won the game, 4-2.

By CHRIS MORELLI

cmorelli@lockhaven.com

LORETTO — Bald Eagle Area is advancing in the PIAA Playoffs, but not without a little controversy.

A first-inning two-run home run by BEA’s Maegan King proved to be the difference in the Eagles’ 4-2 win over Keystone Oaks in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Playoffs. The home run was originally called a foul ball, but BEA head coach Don Lucas protested and the home plate umpire flipped the call. The two-run shot gave BEA a 3-0 lead and it hung on to advance to the PIAA semifinals.

“It went around the (foul) pole. I wasn’t trying to pull strings,” Lucas said. “It was a home run. I thought (the base umpire) had a bad angle. It went around it. I thought the home plate umpire had the better (angle) of it.”

King said that she took off as soon as she made contact and didn’t see where the ball went when it left the yard.

“Honestly, I didn’t know if it was foul or fair. I went around (the bases) like it was fair and it was. I feel like it really impacted the game. It gave us momentum and everyone started hitting,” King said.

Keystone Oaks head coach Mark Kaminski said that he’d never seen a foul ball reversed to a home run. He argued the flipped call to no avail.

“That’s why you have an umpire on the line like that, for foul balls. They said the plate umpire had a better angle, but he was standing right on the line; there isn’t a better angle,” Kaminski said. “Now, having said that, we need to score more than two runs. We had the chances. If we had scored more runs, it wouldn’t have mattered.”

But Kaminski was frustrated by the call nonetheless.

“You have four umpires for that very reason and you still miss that call,” he said.

BEA came out clicking on all cylinders. Mara Hockenberry got aboard with a bunt single with one out and after an error by Keystone Oaks’ shortstop Gianna Woods, Madison Peters ripped a single to right, scoring Hockenberry. Maralee Caldana was thrown out trying to get to third on the play, but with Peters aboard, King hit the controversial homer to give BEA a 3-0 lead.

To its credit, Keystone Oaks didn’t quit. Jessica LaPorte doubled to the gap in left-center field and moved up on a ground out by Grace Taylor. LaPorte would score on an error by Peters.Woods singled, but Peters worked out of the jam with a strikeout and a fielder’s choice.

Keystone Oaks would get within a run in the top of the fifth. Woods bunted for a single and moved up on a sacrifice by Sophia Piatt. An error by BEA shortstop Maddie Perry made it 3-2.

Despite the controversial call, and the early hole, Kaminski was proud of the way his team battled.

“It’s not surprising. It’s the way they’ve been all year. We knew we were eventually going to get to their pitcher and score some runs off her,” he said.

However, BEA got a much-needed insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on back-to-back doubles by Autumn Tobias and Perry.

Perry said that she wanted to atone for her early error.

“I knew my teammates would pick me up. Once Autumn got on, we had that energy and it spread like wildfire,” Perry said.

Down two runs, Keystone Oaks went quietly in the top of the seventh with a strikeout, a fly out and ground out.

“This was a tough one,” Lucas said. “They were a quality team.”

Now, BEA gets Interstate 80 rival Clearfield in the PIAA semifinals on Monday. The site and time of that game has not been determined.

“It’s tough to play the same team three times,” Lucas said. “They’ve really improved since the beginning of the season. We’re going to have to play a very good game to make it to the next round.”

Bald Eagle Area 4, Keystone Oaks 2

Keystone Oaks 010 010 0 – 2 4 2

Bald Eagle Area 300 001 x – 4 10 2

Pitchers and catchers: Bald Eagle Area – Peters and Caldana, King; Keystone Oaks – Butler and Fratangelo.

Top hitters: Bald Eagle Area – King (home run), Peters (two singles), Hockenberry (two singles), Tobias (double), Perry (double); Keystone Oaks – LaPorte (double).

Records: BEA – 21-3; Keystone Oaks – 14-7.

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