BEA faces Clearfield today in state semifinals

(TIM WEIGHT/FOR THE EXPRESS) The Bald Eagle Area softball team gathers for their fans after defeating Keystone Oaks, 4-2, on Thursday. Bald Eagle Area faces Clearfield today at 5 p.m. in the state semifinals at Mount Aloysius College.

By SHAREIK FLOWERS

sflowers@lockhaven.com

WINGATE- Bald Eagle Area’s 2019 season has been magical. They’re 21-3 and captured a District 6 crown thanks to a 9-5 win over Chestnut Ridge.

Now in the state playoffs their performance, against top-tier teams, has elevated. The Eagles handed South Park a 6-1 defeat in the opening round of the state playoffs, before another hard-fought 4-2 win against Keystone Oaks in their quarterfinal matchup. The win set BEA up with a third meeting today against Clearfield (14-9), and a series sweep would send the Eagles into Friday’s state championship at PSU’s Beard Field.

“The girls are ecstatic to be playing in the state semifinals,” BEA coach Don Lucas said. “When you get to this point of the state playoffs, with the opportunity to go to the [championship game], you just can’t help but to be excited.”

BEA secured a bid in the semifinal round after dropping Keystone Oaks last week, 4-2. Maegan King’s home run was the difference as she blasted a two-run bomb in the first to extend BEA’s lead, 3-0. The win occurred Thursday, which allowed BEA three days to prepare for the Bison today.

“The practices have been short and sweet,” Lucas said. “It’s important to just come in and get the reps, because I think at this point of the season there’s not anything new you can actually put in. You just want to review, polish what you’ve been doing and just do everything you’ve done to get to where you’re at.”

SIZING UP CLEARFIELD

Bald Eagle and Clearfield are familiar opponents, as the two teams have faced each other twice this season. The Eagles won their season opener with a 17-2 victory against the Bison, before shutting out Clearfield, 9-0, back on April 18. Despite the combined 26-2 run-advantage in both games, Lucas believes the Eagles have their stiffest test of the season today.

“I think they’re a very good team,” Lucas said of the Bison. “In their nine losses they’ve lost to some quality teams. They have a quality pitcher, and catcher, and all the essentials needed to have a good team. It’s going to be a very difficult game for us.”

Clearfield’s superstar is Emma Hipps, and the freshman is having a sensational season at the plate and on the mound. Hipps is batting .427 on the year and leads the Bison with six home runs. As a pitcher she’s 13-8, has a 1.62 ERA and a ridiculous 228 strikeouts on the season.

“I think Hipps is the main ingredient for their success,” Lucas said. “She’s going to keep them in every ball game that she throws.”

KEYS TO VICTORY

For the Eagles a strong-defensive performance, absent of any mental lapses– should determine the game’s outcome.

“I think in a game like this, it basically comes down to who makes the fewest amount of mistakes,” Lucas explained. “With a young team you always fear growing pains might show their head.”

Lucas said a lack of defensive miscues eases the pressure off pitcher Madison Peters, as he knows error-riddled ball will extend innings and reduce BEA’s chances of winning.

“Madison Peters is a very good pitcher,” Lucas said. “But you can’t go into a game and extend an inning to four or five outs. That’s just a recipe for disaster. So we have to play clean ball, be disciplined at the plate and swing at good strikes.”

BALD EAGLE AREA WILL WIN IF

“We win all three phases of the game, which are pitching, hitting and defense,” Lucas said.

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