No. 1 Deer Lakes softball edges Freeport in 9
For the first five games of the season, defending WPIAL Class AA softball champion Deer Lakes faced little resistance. The Lancers clobbered the opposition, machine-gunning extra-base hits all over the field while outscoring their opposition by a brow-raising 65-4.
The Lancers finally were confronted with a test in Tuesday's Section 3-AA showdown at Freeport, but they eked this one out the old-fashioned way, using small ball to win their fifth game in seven days.
That's not to say the big hits were lacking — top-ranked Deer Lakes blasted three home runs across the first three innings — but a bunt single by leadoff hitter Becca Babincak set up the winning run in a 5-4 victory over the Yellowjackets in nine innings.
After Freeport rallied for three runs in the fifth to tie it at 4, Deer Lakes (6-0, 5-0) didn't get another hit until Babincak bunted and beat the throw to first to open the ninth. The four-year starter then moved to second on a groundout and third on a passed ball before scoring the go-ahead run on a soft, one-out single by sophomore Tiffany Edwards.
“The big hit gets us into position to win,” Deer Lakes coach Craig Taliani said. “But small ball gets us the win. Over the course of the season, you have to be able to do a little of everything to be successful.”
With so much offense coming from Deer Lakes and Freeport (3-2, 3-2) — both were averaging more than 11 runs per game — some thought an offensive barrage was in order.
But rallies were limited and the defenses were mostly steady down the stretch.
“We didn't think it would be a slugfest,” Taliani said. “We knew it would be a game like this. That's what you expect when you play Freeport.”
Freeport showed plenty of fight against the champs.
“Coach Taliani has been though a lot with his team,” Freeport coach Sam Ross said. “He's used to some of those close games, especially in the playoffs.”
The winning pitcher with nine strikeouts, Edwards helped her cause with a two-run homer in the third. First baseman Sierra Sarver followed with a solo shot to give the Lancers a 4-0 lead.
“We all have confidence in ourselves,” Edwards said. “We've been there before and we know how to win in those situations.”
Taylor Massart had three RBI for Freeport, the first on a single in the third and two more on a game-tying double in the fifth.
Alyssa Meta and Emily Lindsey had back-to-back RBI singles to get Freeport to within 4-2.
Maureen Hutchinson also homered for the Lancers' first run.
Freeport lefty starter Meta overcame a vicious line drive and being hit by a pitch on her non-throwing elbow, all in the first inning. She applied an ice pack to the elbow immediately after the game.
Deer Lakes has another Section 3 test Wednesday afternoon at unbeaten Burrell (5-0, 5-0). The Lancers and Bucs are the last two WPIAL champions.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.