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Emotional effort lifts Deer Lakes softball team

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Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Deer Lakes' Tiffany Edwards gets congratulations from coach Craig Taliani as she rounds third base after homering Tuesday, April 30, 2013, at Deer Lakes High School.
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Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 11:24 p.m.
 

More than usual, Tiffany Edwards played with purpose when she took the field Tuesday for the Deer Lakes softball team.

This one was for Pap.

Just hours after attending her grandfather's funeral, the hard-throwing sophomore led the top-ranked Lancers to an 8-2 victory over visiting Freeport in West Deer.

Poised and undeterred, Edwards pitched a two-hitter, hit a two-run homer, doubled and drove in three runs as defending WPIAL champion Deer Lakes improved to 14-0 overall and 13-0 in Section 3-AA.

Edwards missed practice Monday for the viewing and came to school during seventh period Tuesday so she could play in the game.

“Some people mentioned that maybe I shouldn't play today,” Edwards said. “But I needed to play to clear my mind. I knew I had to play for my pap. He didn't want me to feel bad for him.”

Her grandfather, Bill Perroz, died Sunday at age 74 after a lengthy battle with leukemia. Perroz, the uncle of Valley softball coach Carol Perroz, was a regular at Deer Lakes home games, but he had been bedridden of late and couldn't attend.

“It was her call all the way (to play),” Deer Lakes coach Craig Taliani said of Edwards. “I can't say enough about the courage it took for her to play.”

The Lancers, who have clinched back-to-back section championships for the first time, have won 14 straight section games. They have scored 152 runs this season — or 10.1 per game. They also average about 12 hits, with many of them going for extra bases.

Edwards' homer carried into the wind and over the left-center field fence for a 2-0 lead in the first inning.

Junior first baseman Sierra Sarver had three hits, including a double. Senior catcher Hannah Blinn and freshman Rachel Tanilli added RBI singles for Deer Lakes, which has been fueled by an opportunistic lineup that is potent from top to bottom.

“We really mix well as a team,” Blinn said. “If one of us isn't strong one day, someone else is there to pick her up. Tiffany has really stepped up; she had big shoes to fill this year.”

The closest Freeport (9-6, 9-4) got was 3-2 after a two-run homer by senior third baseman Taylor Massart in the fourth. Her shot took nearly the same line as Edwards' and caused Deer Lakes center fielder Maureen Hutchinson to crash face-first into the fence. She was not injured and stayed in the game.

Both of the Yellowjackets' runs came in that inning.

In the teams' earlier meeting this season, Deer Lakes took a commanding lead on a barrage of early home runs before holding off the Yellowjackets, 5-4, in nine innings.

Edwards, who also hit a two-run shot in that game, and a solid defense made sure Freeport didn't come back this time.

After Massart's homer Tuesday, the Lancers responded with a four-run fourth, sparked by Edwards' run-scoring double, a laser-shot to left. Three runs scored on errors.

“We're playing the best in the WPIAL,” Freeport coach Sam Ross said of Deer Lakes. “They are the champs until someone beats them and a new one is crowned. We have a really good section, so any time we play a team like Deer Lakes, it's a good measuring stick.

“We have to learn to make the routine plays and cut down on mistakes, and maybe we can surprise some people in the playoffs.”

Freeport also has secured a postseason berth.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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