Deer Lakes softball team loses in quarterfinals
BEDFORD — Deer Lakes went from being rained out to feeling bummed out in the state playoffs.
Despite a strong defensive effort in a game that finally was played after two days' worth of postponements, the Lancers were mostly punchless at the plate in a 3-1 loss to Philipsburg-Osceola on Saturday in a PIAA Class AA quarterfinal at Bedford.
The defeat brings the season to a close for Deer Lakes (19-2), which went 39-4 the past two years, winning a WPIAL title last year and posting a runner-up district finish this season.
Both times, the Lancers fell in the second round of states, and both times, they lost after weather delays.
“I feel terrible for these girls, and I know I hate losing,” Deer Lakes coach Craig Taliani said. “We're not just playing to compete. We want to win championships. If you don't play to win championships, you're just a participant.”
The game was supposed to be played Thursday, but heavy rains forced it to be put on hold Thursday and Friday. Deer Lakes isn't a team that makes excuses, but who knows what happens without the waiting?
“The anticipation maybe faded some; I know I felt more energetic Thursday,” said catcher Hannah Blinn, who was one of four Deer Lakes seniors to graduate Friday night. “But we felt good today, too. You have to hit. We need to out the ball on the ground more. We hit line drives and popouts.”
Taliani didn't think weather issues bothered his team.
“Nah, (P-O) had to play the same day as us,” he said. “Sooner or later, you have to give credit to the team that beats you. Hats off to (P-O). We had some chances to do some damage and didn't come through.”
Deer Lakes turned a 4-6-3 double play in the fourth and prevented another run from scoring in the fifth when right fielder Rachel Tanilli caught a fly ball and threw to first baseman Sierra Sarver, who fired home to catcher Hannah Blinn for an inning-ending putout.
But the offense managed just three hits against P-O senior Kate Burge, who improved to 20-0. Burge, a Penn State Altoona recruit, struck out five and walked two. She allowed just three hits, got Deer Lakes to fly out 10 times and retired 14 of the last 15 batters.
“We never got up on her,” Deer Lakes sophomore pitcher Tiffany Edwards said. “I don't know if we were pressing or what.”
Edwards took just the second loss of her career. She is 27-2. She retired 13 in a row at one point.
The Mounties scored all of their runs in the first inning. Sophomore Mackenzie Burge tripled home the Mounties' first run and came home on a wild pitch. Kate Burge then doubled to the fence to make the score 3-0.
The quick offense was all the Mounties needed.
“I thought our defense was strong, and (Burge) hit her spots,” P-O coach Jim Gonder said. “Both teams are very even. I thought we did a good job against their three, four and five hitters.”
Deer Lakes scored its run in the third. Senior shortstop Becca Babincak tripled, and sophomore second baseman Katie Gozzard singled.
Deer Lakes loaded the bases in the bottom of the first, getting a pair of walks with one out. Blinn appeared to bring home Babincak on a sacrifice fly, but freshman Maria Taliani failed to tag up going from second to third and was called out to end the threat.
“That was a mistake, but it's one we can fix,” coach Taliani said. “Believe me, no one will take it harder than (Maria).”
P-O (23-1) advanced to face Riverside (21-0) in the semifinals Monday. Deer Lakes had hoped for a rematch against Riverside, which was scouting Saturday's game from just behind the center-field fence.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.