Madison Perry’s walk-off sends Eagles to State Championship
By SHAREIK FLOWERS
CRESSON- Clearfield doubted Madison Perry’s ability to perform in the clutch during the final frame, and the Eagle freshman made the Bison pay dearly for it.
During a two-out, scoreless game in the bottom of the seventh, Clearfield intentionally walked Autum Tobias to load the bases for Perry. She already struckout in her previous two at-bats– but with the game on the line she was focused on delivering for her squad.
“I knew the pressure was going to be high, and I knew the other team doubted me, and that’s what fueled my fire,” Perry said.
On the first pitch Perry drove in the game-winning run as she floated a walk-off single that bounced into the gap of left field. Her heroics locked in a seat in Friday’s state championship game, and the freshman choked up as Mara Hockenberry crossed home plate for the game-winning score, 1-0.
“When I made contact with the ball I thought it [had a chance of falling in],” Perry explained. “The left fielder took a step back and instantly tears were brought to my eyes, because of the adrenaline.”
BEA’s offense was held to a pair of hits on the afternoon, but both occurred during the game-winning seventh inning. And on defense the Eagles surrendered just a trio of hits and played error-free softball.
“On defense we did amazing,” BEA pitcher Madison Peters said. “Our offense was a little shaky, but we definitely pulled it out in the last inning like we usually do.”
BEA’s effective small-ball manufactured the game’s lone run in the seventh. Mara Hockenberry disrupted Emma Hipps’ no-hitter when she executed a leadoff bunt. Teammate Maralee Caldana followed with a sacrifice-bunt to bump Hockenberry over to second base. Clearfield later issued back-to-back free passes to Maegan King and Autumn Tobias, which set up Madison Perry’s game-winning RBI.
“We did what we had to do to win,” BEA coach Don Lucas said. “We manufactured a run, and I couldn’t be any prouder of this group.”
“I’m just ecstatic right now,” Lucas added. “I couldn’t be any more prouder of this group of girls. You hope when you play a game like this that as a coach you don’t do anything dumb to mess it up, but these girls make it easy to coach.”
In a game where hits were scarce–BEA won the highly-anticipated pitchers’ duel. The showdown between Madison Peters and Emma Hipps was sensational as the prolific hurlers went back-and-forth for the game’s entirety.
Peters was a monster on the mound and threw 16 strikeouts in a shutout performance. She fanned the side in both the fifth and seventh inning, and held Clearfield scoreless for her second time this season.
“She’s been doing this all year,” Lucas said of Peters. “Everybody who coaches this game knows that if you don’t have somebody in the circle, you’re not going to last very long. She’s only a sophomore, so she’s basically still just learning the game and she did a great job today.”
Peters opened the game with back-to-back strikeouts in the first, and fanned Clearfield’s final three batters in the seventh. She said her rising pitch was her most effective throw against the Bison, and that her surrounding defense, which finished the game without an error– aided in easing the pressure off her.
“My rise is what got 90 percent of the strikeouts,” Peters explained. “And it’s an amazing feeling knowing that if they hit the ball, my defense behind me has my back. In years past I didn’t have that, so now that I have that I’m not afraid to let [opposing batters] hit the ball. I know my defense will do the work.”
Clearfield’s Emma Hipps’ sensational performance on the mound nearly sent the Bison to the title game. The freshman carried a perfect game into the sixth before a two-out fielding error allowed allowed BEA’s first base runner of the game in Madison Eckley. Hipps then lost her no-hitter in the seventh but finished the game with 13 strikeouts.
“She kept putting the ball inside, and apparently we don’t like balls inside,” Lucas said of Hipps’ performance. “We looked at way too many pitches, and we need to adjust to that.”
Madison Peters wasn’t surprised by Hipps’ performance. Hipps entered the semifinals with 228 strikeouts on the season and made enormous strides during the year.
“She was doing amazing,” Peters said of Hipps. “We knew that she was coming in as a freshman, and she was on a roll. She wanted to get it done as bad as I did.”
Both pitchers equally desired the win–but in the end Peters and the Eagles prevailed.
“We did absolutely amazing, and couldn’t have played better ball,” BEA shortstop Madison Perry said. “We made adjustments when we had to, and clutched up when we had to. The defense was outstanding and Madison threw a really well game.”
Bald Eagle Area (22-3) returns Friday in the PIAA State Championship versus the undefeated Pine Grove Cardinals. Pine Grove (27-0) blitzed through Bloomsburg, 17-0, in four innings Tuesday to secure a collision course with the Eagles.
“We’re so excited at obviously being able to represent our district in the state finals,” BEA coach Don Lucas said. “We’re going to go there, do our best and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.”
Bald Eagle Area 1, Clearfield 0
CF 000 000 0–0 3 1
BEA 000 000 1–1 2 0
WP: Madison Peters
LP: Emma Hipps
BEA: Madison Perry (1-3,game-winning RBI),Mara Hockenberry (1-3)
Clearfield: Karly Rumsky (2-3) Morgan Cheek (1-3)