Big defensive play helps Deer Lakes softball team down Burrell
A perfectly executed play from right field to home plate in the third inning proved to be the difference Monday in the long-awaited Section 3-AA softball showdown between Deer Lakes and Burrell.
The defending WPIAL champion Lancers, ranked No. 1 in this week's Trib Total Media poll, scored twice in the bottom of the third and held on for a 2-1 victory.
Deer Lakes remains undefeated at 7-0, 6-0, and Burrell, the WPIAL champion from two seasons ago, is 6-1 overall and in section play.
Monday's game was postponed twice earlier this month because of inclement weather.
With the game scoreless in the top of the third, Bucs senior Claire Fisher hit a single to right with none out. Kelsey Oddis, who had opened the inning with a single, scored easily.
Melissa Mazzei, who reached base on an error, tried to score from second. But a perfect relay throw from right fielder Rachel Tanilli to second baseman Katie Gozzard, then to catcher Hannah Blinn retired the sliding Mazzei.
“We tried to squeeze in another run there early in the game to try and see if they could execute, and they did,” Burrell coach Mike Spagnolo said. “We couldn't come back in a one-run game, and that was the ballgame. I would take that chance anytime early. That throw was right on the money.”
Added Lancers coach Craig Taliani: “We didn't play our cleanest game, defensively, but we made plays when we had to. At the most opportune times, they came through. Still, this wasn't our A-plus game on defense.”
Deer Lakes made four errors.
With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Gozzard singled and went to second on a wild pitch. Tiffany Edwards doubled home Gozzard to tie the game.
One out later, Hannah Blinn, as she did so many times during the Lancers' title drive last season, came through with a clutch hit to score courtesy runner Maria Taliani with what turned out to be the decisive tally.
“Hannah, and all these seniors, have just shown incredible leadership so far this year,” Craig Taliani said. “I think they want to be in pressure situations, so we just have confidence in any of them.”
Winning pitcher Edwards allowed only one runner to second over the final four innings.
Fisher pitched well, allowing just one base hit after Deer Lakes scored two runs in the third.
“She pitched a nice game,” Spagnolo said of Fisher. “It was a matter of everybody getting through the lineup and making the outs, and we backed her up on defense.”
Deer Lakes shortstop Becca Babincak had a solid game in the field, handling eight chances flawlessly and covering considerable real estate in the middle infield.
George Guido is a freelance writer.