Deer Lakes softball rallies from 7-0 deficit to advance to championship
Call it “The Rally on Route 19,” or, “The Miracle in McCandless.”
One of the most stirring comebacks in Deer Lakes softball history won't soon be forgotten.
But Deer Lakes coach Craig Taliani will remember his team's amazing semifinal victory at North Allegheny as the most unexpected birthday gift he's ever received.
Icing on the cake, no doubt.
Deer Lakes overcame a seven-run deficit and two hours' worth of weather delays to defeat Beaver, 11-7, and advance to the WPIAL Class AA championship game for the second straight season. The defending-champion and top-seeded Lancers (18-0) play No. 3 Riverside (18-0) at 2 p.m. next Thursday at California (Pa.) University.
“What a present,” Taliani said. “Given the circumstances, the wait and what was at stake, that's the greatest comeback I've ever seen. Our girls have that championship mentality and never cease to amaze me.”
Not accustomed to having to play from behind, potent Deer Lakes trailed, 7-0, and was hitless in the top of the third inning when thunder and lightning forced officials to call everyone off the field and out of the stands.
After a 93-minute delay that had both teams confined to their buses, Deer Lakes sent 13 batters to the plate and scored eight runs on six hits to take an 8-7 lead after three innings.
“Our attitude changed,” said Deer Lakes pitcher Tiffany Edwards, who did not allow a hit after the delay and retired 14 of 15 batters, including 13 in a row. “I know what these ladies are capable of,” “It was only the third inning; we weren't worried.”
When Deer Lakes finally got to bat again after play resumed, Maureen Hutchinson led off with a double, and Leanne Crawford's sacrifice scored her.
“Our girls were like angry bears coming out of hibernation,” Taliani said. “Maureen started us off.”
Becca Babincak reached on a bunt single, and Katie Gozzard walked. With the bases loaded, Edwards singled in a run, Sierra Sarver ripped a two-run double, and Hannah Blinn followed with a two-run triple to get the Lancers to within 7-6.
An infield single by Courtney Lubick tied the score, 7-7, and another by Rachel Tanilli gave Deer Lakes the lead.
“This team knows how to pull from the bottom,” Blinn said. “We're the champs, and we had to prove it.”
Deer Lakes players laughed, listened to music and bounced around on the bus during the delay — not the look of a somewhat-punchless team down, 7-0.
The delay had the opposite effect on Beaver (12-7), the No. 13 seed that hoped to add Deer Lakes to its upset trail. The Bobcats came unraveled.
The Lancers added two runs in the fifth on an RBI-single by Huthinson and on an error with the bases full.
In the sixth, Hutchinson reached on an error, which allowed Sarver to score to make it 11-7.
“Comeback of a lifetime,” Sarver said.
The Bobcats looked in control when pitcher Casey Farkasovsky hit a two-run homer in the first and Bella Valent added a three-run triple in the second for the 7-0 advantage.
There also was a 30-minute delay because of lightning in the top of the second.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.